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Washington restaurant leaders ask for additional COVID relief funding

In the first year of the pandemic, over 2,300 Washington restaurants closed permanently. Surviving restaurants are asking state leaders to get more U.S. funding.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Over 7,000 Washington restaurants applied for the federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund program in May 2021, but only 3,200 Washington restaurants secured funding.

One of the restaurants left to figure out their debts on their own was Spokane's The Swinging Doors.

Despite meeting all the qualifications for the $29 billion program, The Swinging Doors was not selected to receive funding.

Today, the general manager Lisa Emery spoke directly to Senator Maria Cantwell in a virtual roundtable about restaurant struggles in the pandemic.

"We thought 2022 would be the light at the end of this pandemic tunnel but not so much,” Emery told the state senator.

Over the last two years, restaurants have had to keep up with staff wages, put money toward COVID-safety arrangements and go months without profit.

Emery said between 2019 and 2020, The Swinging Doors lost over a million dollars.

"We’re getting to the end of our rope a little bit,” Emery said.

To keep doors open, The Swinging Doors has put money into outdoor seating accommodations, like tents and heaters, and an air purifying system that destroys bacteria and viruses in the restaurant.

Emery said getting back that money spent to keep the restaurant afloat has been difficult and the country could help with a second round of funding.

While additional federal COVID relief is not guaranteed, Emery said restaurant owners need help as soon as possible.

"We’re being told that it’ll be April before things get better and not many restaurants can wait that long.”

Senator Cantwell told Washington restaurant leaders she would take the stories she heard today back to the Senate Small Business Committee and hope to get funding for restaurants within the next 60 days.

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