Oakland mayor helps leaders seek emergency relief from local businesses

OAKLAND, CA – Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf joined a Urgent call to help struggling American restaurants.

Warning of potentially “catastrophic” consequences for local businesses that are an essential part of the fabric of communities nationwide, Schaaf joined 25 current and former mayors co-signing a letter urging Congress to restore funding for pandemic relief through the US rescue plan to restaurants and bars barely clinging to the middle of omicron.

The country’s urban leaders warn of the failure to rebuild Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) would be “catastrophic” for local businesses, potentially setting off a chain reaction that could bring the US economy to its knees.

About two-thirds of the roughly 277,000 restaurants nationwide that have applied for the RRF have been denied, and 86% of those businesses face permanent closure, the letter says.

“Failure to complete the RRF soon will result in widespread shutdowns and another blow to our already fragile supply chains,” the letter to House and Senate leaders from both parties reads.

“Prices have already skyrocketed for staples like beef (41%), grains (38%) and shortening and cooking oil (44%) – losing the restaurants these suppliers rely on would further hurt more to this precarious system.”

Schaaf was among three Bay Area mayors who signed the letter. San Francisco Mayor London Breed and San Rafael Mayor Kate Colin were the others.

The letter was also signed by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and former Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkin.

“Local independent restaurants and bars are vital to our economies,” the letter states.

“Restaurants and bars breathe life into our neighborhoods, provide unparalleled opportunities for career advancement, and facilitate trade between local vendors. Today, these small businesses, many of which have served our communities for decades, are on the verge of closing their doors for good.

Urban leaders argue in the letter that businesses that do not receive funding are at a competitive disadvantage.

“These companies cannot compete with their peers who can pay off debts, make repairs and hire workers at competitive rates – it’s not fair for the government to pick winners and losers.”

The letter said support for additional RRF funding has majority support in both houses of Congress.

“Restaurants and bars are months beyond the trouble, they are dying in plain sight. They have 22 months of debt for missed rents, suppliers and utility payments and are postponing repairs that needed to be done. months ago,” the letter read.

“Cold weather has put an end to outdoor dining and now the omicron variant is reinvigorating the fears of customers who are afraid to eat indoors. These small businesses on the brink of financial ruin must compete with their counterparts who can refund their debts, pay competitive rates and take all necessary additional measures to ensure the safety of their guests and staff.

“Congress can’t just fix a third of the problem created by the pandemic — representatives need to make sure these small businesses have the relief they need to navigate an uncertain future and pay down their debt.”