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Schumer to restaurants: ‘Help is on the way’

Shown speaking is Michael Russo, owner of Russo's Grill in Amsterdam. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O'Hara)

AMSTERDAM — “Help is on the way,” state Sen. Charles Schumer repeated several times in announcing the passing of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

While sporting a #SaveRestaurants mask, Schumer, along with other state and local officials, and local restaurant owners, discussed how the American Rescue Plan will help restaurants recover through the Restaurants Act, after a year of struggle due to the pandemic.

“Even with 75 percent capacity rules that started on March 19, Capital Region restaurants, their employees, and the overall regional economy still need immediate federal relief because too many of he places we know and love could close without any help, leaving a giant hole in our local economy, Schumer said. “That is why I fought so hard to make sure this relief bill included a vital ingredient — a restaurants relief fund based on the Restaurants Act — to get our restaurants ‘cooking’ again.”

On Tuesday, at Russo’s Grill, Schumer was joined by Congressman Paul Tonko, Amsterdam Mayor Michael Cinquanti, Montgomery County Legislature Chairman Robert Purtell, owner of Russo’s Grill Michael Russo, owner of Lorenzo’s Southside restaurant Lou Lanzi, Markus Guillen of Mundo’s Cafe and Jenna Dodd, a single mother of two from Amsterdam.

Schumer said the Restaurant Act will provide a down-payment of $28.6 billion in flexible grants through the Small Business Administration as a lifeline for New York’s restaurant industry. Food service or drinking establishments including caterers, brewpubs, taprooms, tasting rooms, wineries and businesses that supply restaurants as well, that are not an affiliated group with more than 20 locations, will be eligible .

Shown is Congressman Paul Tonko who helped announce the American Rescue Plan on Tuesday at Russo's Grill in Amsterdam. The plan will be provide federal pandemic relief to resturarants, areas in Fulton and Montgomery County, and children in poverty. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O'Hara)

“Help is on [the] way [for] our restaurants,” Schumer said.

“Our Capital Region restaurants are pillars of their communities that will be critical to rebuilding our Main Street economies. They have endured extraordinary hardship during this pandemic, and with the pandemic entering its second year, some of our cherished establishments are still at risk of shutting their doors for good,” Tonko said. “But many have proven that — with a little help from Congress and the American people — they can weather this storm and help our region and nation build back better than ever.”

The restaurant relief fund will include $10 million per restaurant group and $5 million per individual restaurant. Eligible expenses include payroll and benefits, mortgage, rent, utilities, maintenance, supplies including protective equipment and cleaning materials, food, operational expenses, covered supplier costs as defined by SBA under the PPP program, sick leave and any other expenses deemed essential by the administrator.

Grants can be spent on eligible expenses from Feb. 15, 2020 through Dec. 31 and the administrator may extend the period through two years from enactment if conditions warrant.

And $5 billion of the $28.6 billion total is reserved for restaurants with less than $500,000 in gross receipts in 2019 for the first 60 days of the program. During the initial 21-day period, the administrator will prioritize awarding grants to eligible entities that are owned or controlled by women or veterans or are socially and economically disadvantaged businesses.

State Sen. Charles Schumer sports a #SaveRestaurants mask while announcing that restaurants will have access to federal pandemic relief as part of the American Rescue Plan. He along with other state and local representatives made the announcement on Tuesday at Russo's Grill in Amsterdam. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O'Hara)

“What on the menu here at Russo’s and so many other restaurants across our state? Relief so they can stay open, stay strong and get this awful COVID-19 crisis,” Schumer said.

Schumer also briefly discussed other ways local municipalities will benefit from the American Rescue Plan as an estimated $100 billion is headed to New York.

He said $1,400 is coming to every resident of this county and the Capital Region if you’re an individual making below $75,000 and if you’re a couple making below $150,000.

“That’s going to help families. Everyone has had a lot more expenses during COVID-19, and it will put money into the economy,” Schumer said.

Also within about three weeks, Schumer said there will be an ample supply of vaccinations in which anyone 16 and older will be able to get vaccinated without an appointment.

“If that happens, if people get the vaccines, by early summer we should be on track to living a normal life,” Schumer said. Other wins for the Capital Region in the American Rescue Plan include: Approximately $1.1 billion in direct payments for more than an estimated 441,000 households in the Capital Region. Nearly 23,000 households in Montgomery County will received approximately $57 million and nearly about 25,000 households in Fulton County will receive approximately $61 million.

More than $1.95 million going in state and local aid toward the city of Amsterdam and more than $9.55 million going directly to Montgomery County.

More than $1.6 million is going to Gloversville and $900,000 to Johnstown, and $10.3 million is going directly to Fulton County.

More than $5.27 million is going to the Fulton-Montgomery Community College and more than $32,000 is going to the Fulton County Airport.

Other funds include:

∫ $2.7 billion for Medicaid FMAP

∫ $1.7 billion for Amtrak relief

∫ $15 billion for airline payroll support program enhancement

∫ $5.3 billion for child care and help for New York families

∫ $21.7 billion for enhanced unemployment benefits for New Yorkers

∫ $4 billion for new COVID-19 vaccine procurement and testing

∫ $57.8 billion for small businesses, restaurants and live venue relief

∫ $632 million for broadband connectivity.

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