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Metro Creative Connection

Higgins announces federal help for struggling Western New York restaurants

Fri, Apr 9th 2021 09:00 pm

COVID-19 relief available, workshop planned to help local businesses apply

Congressman Brian Higgins announced new federal relief available to help restaurants struggling due to the pandemic. A $28.6 billion restaurant revitalization fund was included in the American Rescue Plan supported by Higgins.

“The restaurant industry has been devastated by the pandemic and has yet to recover,” Higgins said. “The survival of restaurants will be critical to postpandemic employment growth, economic recovery and community revival. We are working to see these critical federal resources are made available to help local establishments come back even stronger.”

Higgins is teaming up with small business development centers in Western New York to offer a workshop to assist local restaurants with the application process. The virtual workshop will be held April 19. Businesses can register here.

Buffalo State Small Business Development Center Director Susan McCartney said, “Over the past year of the pandemic, we have worked with every kind of businesses. Restaurants have experience, by far, the most damage. Their pain affects the entire community. They are an integral part of how we experience and feel about our city. They reflect us. They often unite us. Their pain is our pain. This infusion of capital could rescue many on the brink of closure. My team is ready to help. Sooner the better. Let’s do this and do it now.”

Restaurants are encouraged to reach out to local small business development centers with questions or for assistance in building a strong application. In Erie County, contact the Small Business Development Center at SUNY Buffalo State at 716-878-4030 or email [email protected]. Venues in Niagara County can reach out to the Niagara County Community College Small Business Development Center by phone at 716-210-2515 or email [email protected].

NCCC Small Business Development Center Director Lynn Oswald added, “We at the Niagara SBDC applaud the congressman’s co-sponsorship of this vital funding. We encourage all of our local restaurant owners to be proactive and to start gathering the documentation that will be needed when the application portal opens. Call our office and let’s begin.”

Higgins met with local restaurant owners and, in January, wrote to President Joe Biden insisting that targeted relief for restaurants be included in federal economic recovery packages.

In his letter to the president, Higgins stated, “Restaurants are more than places to order a meal, they are centers of community, fixtures around which our relationships, routines, and traditions revolve. The COVID-19 pandemic has already cost our country so much. We must do everything we can to ensure restaurants are still standing on the other side.”

Dennis DiPaolo, owner of Ilio DiPaolo’s Restaurant, said, "It's great to know Congressman Higgins listened to our dilemmas for our restaurants and stepped up to help us survive. Our industry works on a 2% bottom line and, with the continued expenses of maintenance, paying staff, increasing food prices to name a few, this Restaurant Act was vital for the survival of tens of thousands of restaurants throughout our country, not just WNY."

Higgins was also a cosponsor of the RESTAURANTS Act and pushed for the restaurant assistance to be included in COVID-19 relief legislation.

Mulberry Italian Ristorante owner Joe Jerge said, “I wish to express my utmost gratitude to Congressman Brian Higgins for spearheading the local fight to provide us with much-needed relief. It was abundantly clear to me when we met in January that Congressman Higgins clearly and unequivocally understood the dire situation independent operators were in and he quickly delivered on his promise to fight on behalf of independently owned restaurants, the folks that make their living working in those restaurants, and the importance of restaurants as they relate to community. In our effort to stay afloat, this relief is paramount to help overcome the obstacles we’ve had to deal with over the course of the past year and will help us with the challenges that yet lie ahead”

According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurant industry sales in 2020 were down $240 billion and restaurant employment dropped 3.1 million below expected levels.

From left: Jay Pasquarella (Lucia’s on the Lake), Joe Jerge (Mulberry Italian Ristorante), Congressman Brian Higgins, Dennis DiPaolo (Ilio DiPaolo’s Restaurant), Sue McCartney (Small Business Development Center at SUNY Buffalo State), Lynn Oswald (Niagara County Community College Small Business Development Center) and Ilio DiPaolo (Ilio DiPaolo’s Restaurant)

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