With the restaurant industry desperate for help, Gov. Ned Lamont told a business audience on Wednesday that his administration is planning at least another $ 25 million in COVID-19 assistance for small businesses, in addition to grants. In addition to $ 50 million is now being processed.
He spoke to the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce at a virtual lunch an hour before House Republicans proposed their own $ 50 million grant program and other relief measures for restaurants and bars. Lamont told Chamber members that they currently have no plans to limit restaurants whose indoor dining capacity is limited to 50%.
“I have no plans to shut anything down right now,” Lamont said.
Middlesex Chamber’s annual holiday meeting always draws an address by the governor, often giving a preview of the upcoming legislative session. This year, Lamont addressed him via Zoom, sitting at a Christmas tree table at the executive residence in Hartford.
The hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit of the epidemic, with Lamont’s executive orders prohibiting trade and recent lack of confidence in food safety as a spike of affairs.
“The consumer has confidence in where it starts,” said Scott Dolch, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association. “And it’s at an all-time low.”
Data from Open Table, an online reservation system, shows that restaurant business in Connecticut is down 60% in December from the same period a year ago, and about 600 restaurants have closed.
The industry had a good summer and early fall after outdoor food and limited indoor food were allowed in the state, but cold weather and a sharp rise in new cases have kept customers away.
September reservations were down only 3%, but they fell to 18% in October and 44% in November, and the month saw a one-day drop of 76%, a time typically for businesses’ leisure functions. Was.
Connecticut on Wednesday reported 2,319 new COVID-19 cases, a 7.41% positivity rate completing 31,227 trials, and 40 more fatalities. Hospitalizations fell from 15 to 1,254.
After prompting for days in new aid, Lamont said the administration would implement a new grant program for $ 50 million of efforts, providing $ 5,000 grants to businesses with less than 20 full-time employees or 2019 payrolls Will go. Less than $ 1.5 million.
The new program will be open to slightly larger businesses. The grant money was unclear.
He said, “It is not enough to take care of everyone.” It takes care of them Big businesses, restaurants that are really struggling, ”Lamont said. “I hope this paycheck is a bridge to the next round of protection the federal government has received.”
The restaurant industry has complained that other northeastern states have done more. New Jersey spent $ 100 million, with $ 35 million reserved for restaurants and grants of up to $ 20,000. Rhode Island spent $ 60 million on a $ 30,000 grant; Massachusetts, $ 50.8 million, with grants of up to $ 75,000.
In the spring, Connecticut made $ 41.8 million available for bridge loans in anticipation of grants from federal paycheck protection programs. More than 2,100 companies participated.
Connecticut has also discontinued its shared work program run by the Department of Labor, which provides assistance to companies that cut employee hours rather than closing them.
“Maybe you can only give them half the time. Put them on the board half the time. Contact Department of Labor – Shared Work. We will pay for the other half. “
From 13 March to 2 December, 1,300 companies with 31,000 employees have applied for shared work assistance. There has been a six-fold increase in less than nine months compared to the previous full year, spokeswoman for Juliet Manlan.
House Republicans on Wednesday outlined a broader view.
The House Minority Leader said, “The bars and restaurants on our main streets are important to local economies, attracting people to our communities and surrounding businesses while providing significant income for thousands.” Vincent j. Candelora, R-North Branford. “They are hanging on by a thread – taking action as soon as possible in a legislative session can be crucial to the survival of many of these businesses, most of them desperate to take action for the state that will show them that we are in our future.” Partner to achieve. “
Candelora did not say how many eligible businesses he could get, adding that the number of applicants would be curbed.
The program could be supported, he said, from indirect federal coronavirus relief funds already received by Connecticut. If the Lamont administration or legislature wants to use those federal dollars for other purposes, Candelora said, House Republicans want to pay for the grant program with appropriations in the next state budget.
Candelora and Rep. Holly Cheesemann of East Lime, the ranking House Republican on Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, has also proposed to suspend restaurants that have lost funds, and also those businesses for 90, for state liquor fees and municipal food licensing fees. Doing days. Expansion on their property tax payments.
Connecticut municipalities informed Lamont’s budget office earlier this year that nearly $ 400 million in local revenue had already been lost or delayed due to the epidemic.
But Republican leaders said the best way to protect local property tax receipts is by keeping businesses closed for good.
“More than 600 restaurants have closed – this is an issue that should unite all of us, and I look forward to being pushed toward recovery by a bipartisan re-engaged legislature,” Cheesman said.
The GOP proposal also calls on the state to partner with banks and create low-interest loan programs for struggling restaurants and bars.
Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, co-chair of the Finance, Revenue and Relations Committee, said Democrats support additional aid for the restaurant.
“It’s just a question of how we do it,” he said.