Restaurant industry advocates accuse the Biden administration of being “indifferent” toward ongoing pandemic struggles

A recent Zoom meeting between top Biden administration officials and restaurant industry advocates devolved into a food fight, complete with “recriminations, accusations, and a charge that the administration was letting down a pandemic-ravaged industry that needed help.” Rolling Stone reports that advocates with the Independent Restaurant Coalition organized the meeting to request that the Biden administration replenish the fund created to reimburse restaurant owners for Covid-related losses. Passed last year as part of the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, the $26.8 billion earmarked for restaurant owners ran out after just a third of applicants received grants. This time, restaurant advocates are seeking $40 billion. In the meeting, Biden economic advisers Bharat Ramamurti and Gene Sperling expressed concerns about how the funds would serve frontline restaurant workers, who were not specifically designated to benefit from the emergency funding. That’s when the meeting really went off the rails. Owners pushed back against the accusation that the fund would line their pockets, and workers described the challenging working conditions they’ve been forced to navigate during pandemic peaks. An Arizona restaurateur said the Biden administration officials appeared “indifferent,” a characterization the White House later disputed. In the end, the disastrous meeting accomplished little other than highlighting a “key tension” facing the White House and Democratic lawmakers. According to Rolling Stone, officials are “short on both the political will and capital to rectify what remains unfinished from their pandemic relief efforts.” Tina Vasquez