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More federal relief needed for struggling restaurants, Sen. Murray says

Senator Murray met with three restaurant owners on Wednesday to discuss what small businesses need to recover from the impact of the pandemic.

SEATTLE — Restaurants in Washington state are struggling to rebound from the financial impact brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Since the pandemic began, more than 3,300 restaurants have closed statewide, according to the Washington Hospitality Association.

"We're still open and we've maintained three of our four restaurants," said Roz Edison, co-owner of Marination Restaurants. "We are super grateful."

Edison says what helped was the Restaurant Revitalization Fund with the government offering $28 billion worth of grants to hard-hit restaurants. The program was quickly flooded with applications.

"It was like trying to get tickets for Burning Man or the Adele concert, but it felt more important than that," Edison said.

For Marination Restaurants, the application process was a success. 

However, at Terra Plata in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood, the owners applied but were denied.

"Not having the financial support that a lot of other restaurants got, there is definitely an uneven playing field," said Linda Di Lello Morton, co-owner of Terra Plata.

"There was a lot of applications for a pot of funding that was simply not enough at the time," said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington).

During a roundtable discussion on Wednesday, Sen. Murray said she is fighting to fix that by pushing for more federal relief for the small businesses that missed out.

Sen. Murray is currently fighting to pass the Continuing Emergency Support for Restaurants Act, which would secure an additional $48 billion in funding for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund and cover all existing applications to the program that could not be met before funds were fully spent. This legislation is being negotiated as a part of a broader bipartisan legislative package to support small businesses, according to a release from Murray's office.

"For those of us that stayed open, our costs were much greater than our revenue," Di Lello Morton said.

"I would say, on average, we're down about 40% from pre-COVID levels," Edison said.

In addition to rising costs, small businesses say they are dealing with supply chain issues and labor shortages.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Washington state businesses have received more than $9 billion in federal relief.

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