UPDATE, April 8, 2021: The New York State Legislature passed a $212 billion budget for fiscal 2021-2022 on Wednesday night. It now awaits Gov. Andrew Cuomo's final approval. The budget includes a $25 million New York Restaurant Resiliency Grant Program that provides funds to restaurants that offer meals to distressed and under-represented communities and up to $35 million toward the Restaurant Return-To-Work Tax Credit through 2021 to help restaurants rehire employees, according to a press release.
- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 2021-2022 budget proposal, announced Tuesday, includes a $130 million pandemic recover program that allocated $50 million specifically for restaurants to rehire employees.
- Restaurants can apply for a $5,000 tax credit for each worker they rehire, up to a maximum of 10 workers for a total grant of $50,000, New York Upstate reports. The publication notes the state did not release eligibility criteria details, but businesses will have to prove they lost at least 40% of revenue to apply.
- Following a sustained uptick in COVID-19 cases, Cuomo banned indoor dining indefinitely on Dec. 11. This blanket shutdown came about two months after zones in the city were asked to close indoor dining due to surging rates in those areas.
While this assistance could help a number of restaurants, critics have expressed that the latest proposal from Cuomo doesn't offer enough support, with some arguing that opening indoor dining is a better solution. Cuomo's December order marked the second complete indoor dining shutdown for New York City, with the first going into place in mid-March until establishments were given a green light for limited capacity in September. New York is now allowing indoor dining in most of the state, but that regulation excludes New York City.
Eater New York also reports the proposal is contingent on a $15 billion measure from President Joe Biden's administration to reconcile a budget deficit, so this lifeline might not even transpire.
It's likely this proposal won't appease the group of 70 bars and restaurants that just filed a lawsuit against Cuomo, alleging the state's changing regulations violate their businesses' civil rights. The New York City Hospitality Alliance, has argued for the Restaurants Act, a $120 billion restaurant relief fund that has bipartisan support but has not been brought up for a formal vote.
New York isn't the only state to include some type of relief for restaurants in its 2021-2022 budget proposal. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has proposed $105 million in tax relief and direct aid for restaurants, bars and other small businesses hurt by capacity restrictions, for example. California Gov. Gavin Newsom's $15 billion economic relief proposal includes $71 million for fee waivers for businesses like restaurants, barbershops and salons.
But Cuomo's proposal is designed specifically with restaurants in mind, likely reflective of the massive toll the pandemic has taken on New York City's restaurant scene. As of December at least 1,000 restaurants have closed across the city since March, Eater New York estimates. In September, the New York State Restaurant Association predicted that as many as two-thirds of the state's restaurants could permanently close if they don't receive additional government aid. While a second round of the Paycheck Protection Program was passed in December, the program doesn't seem to be a widespread solution for struggling restaurants, as indicated by the first round in which just 8% of the hospitality sector received a PPP loan.
A number of relief measures have rolled out to help New York City's restaurants, including Mayor Bill de Blasio's $2.3 million Restaurant Revitalization Program, which began in June and provided $30,000 to nearly 100 restaurants to subsidize employees for at least six weeks. In October, DoorDash partnered with the New York City Hospitality Alliance to offer grants that would cover outdoor heating costs as outdoor dining became a permanent fixture.