Reps. Ciresi, Davis reintroduce legislation to provide financial relief to local bars, restaurants

HARRISBURG, Dec. 18 – State Reps. Joe Ciresi, D-Montgomery, and Tina Davis, D-Bucks, updated and will soon reintroduce a bill to provide grants – not loans – to eligible bars, restaurants, catering halls and banquet halls struggling because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill will utilize funding from Pennsylvania’s Rainy Day Fund “because these restaurants are in need of help now, and the consequences of our state will be much worse if they go under,” Ciresi said. There will be a cap on assistance to ensure as many local businesses as possible are helped.

The legislation was introduced during the previous legislative session as H.B. 2791, and this version has been changed to reflect the exhausting of federal CARES Act funds and to increase the grant amount to $200 million.

“Our restaurants and bars have had to play a major role in stopping the community spread of the COVID-19 virus for which they have paid a devastating financial cost,” said Davis, who was elected House Democratic Caucus Secretary for the 2021-22 session that officially began Dec. 1. “The temporary suspension during the holiday season, although necessary, is yet another blow to the industry. It is grossly unfair that our ‘Mom and Pop’ restaurants and bars and their employees should have to bear this burden alone. As they have helped to protect our physical health, we need to protect their financial health through the passage of this legislation which would help them get through the pandemic.”

After H.B. 2791 was introduced over the summer, the bill was assigned to the Commerce Committee, where it remained without further action.

“It was disappointing that, with over 50 co-sponsors, a bill aimed at providing direct relief to our state’s most landmark institutions failed to receive consideration while we still had CARES Act money,” Ciresi said. “But Rep. Davis and I rolled up our sleeves, improved this legislation and are hopeful this version will earn consideration. Because, at the end of the day, it’s the people who work at and own our local restaurants, bars and catering halls who need this assistance, and they need it as soon as possible.”