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Struggling amid pandemic surge, Washington restaurant owners seek more federal funding

Senator Maria Cantwell met with several restaurant owners from across the state to discuss more funding from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

VANCOUVER, Wash. — Restaurant owners in Washington want people to know they're still struggling because of the pandemic. That was their primary message when they met with Senator Maria Cantwell Tuesday morning on a Zoom call to discuss the need for more funding from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. 

About 55 percent of the restaurants that qualified for previous federal aid funds did not get any help because the money ran out, according to the Washington Hospitality Association.

"We want to take this information to DC and fight even harder to get an additional round of restaurant funding in the upcoming months," Cantwell said.

Steve Valenta owns The Mighty Bowl in downtown Vancouver, and he said the current omicron variant surge has impacted his business more than he ever thought it would. Rising food costs, staffing shortages and would-be customers working from home are all factors keeping his business from thriving.

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"What's happening right now is we are realizing restaurants are out of money now, so if we don't get additional help, a lot of us are going to be out of business soon," Valenta said. "So we are looking for Restaurant Revitalization funds to keep us afloat."

Valenta did receive funding from the Paycheck Protection Program, and he said that's one reason why The Mighty Bowl is still open. But the restaurant saw a 24% increase in food and packaging costs from September to December last year. 

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Valenta said with more federal aid, he would be able to cover the debt and loss of revenue inflicted by COVID.

"Whether you've got a mortgage on a business that you own, or whether you are falling behind with expenses with your vendors, that debt will add up quickly and it will shut us down quickly," he said.

The Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association is echoing the call for more help from the federal fund. In a recent survey, the association found that 88% of participating restaurants experienced a decline in demand for indoor dining in recent weeks.

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