ROC Action Commends Congress for Passing $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Relief with More Funding for Restaurants

Calls on Elected Leaders, Restaurant Owners to Extend Stimulus to Restaurant Workers

March 10, 2021

Dr. Sekou Siby, president and CEO of ROC Action, issued the following response to the Congress passage of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which includes billions of dollars to help restaurants and child care resources. 

Today, ROC Action applauds Congress for passing the $1.9 trillion stimulus package, which includes $25 billion to help restaurants nationwide and $50 billion dedicated funding for child care. Thank you to restaurant workers, organizers, child care providers and advocates with whom we work daily — and thousands of people who literally devote their lives to get us here!

We have worked tirelessly to get the much-needed support from the government since the pandemic hit the American shores. And it is such a remarkable policy in American history that would boost the economic capacity of every working family with $1,400 per person, $300 unemployment aid, nearly $4,000 per year for each kid, and $350 billion for states, cities and tribal governments. 

While these funds will undoubtedly allow restaurants to stay afloat and help uplift their business operations post-pandemic, rebuilding the restaurant industry must also center on restaurant workers. It should have been a requirementnot a discretionfor each restaurant owner who gets the stimulus relief to share these funds with their workers.

Restaurant workers need funding to help them get past this period of hardship and uncertainty. With a combination of direct payments and development training, restaurant workers will be more productive and efficient — and the restaurant industry can come back stronger than ever. 

This is a perfect opportunity for restaurant owners to spend some of these stimulus relief funds to increase the wages in the form of hazard pay for their workers, which will enable these workers to pay their rent on time, bring food to their table and save some money for the future or a rainy day. In order to help revive the restaurant industry, restaurant owners who are getting the stimulus should apply the “high road model” by providing their workers paid sick leave so that these workers don’t have to make an impossible decision to choose between working while ill or staying at home but not being able to make ends meet.

We call on our elected leaders to deliver on their promise to pass the $15 minimum wage increase, which was excluded from the stimulus package and listen to the needs of underserved women, people of color and immigrant restaurant workers. Restaurant workers continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic; it is unacceptable for Congress to deprive them of the raise they deserve and the opportunity to provide sufficient food, safe housing and a better life for their families and loved ones.

When the government supported the airline industry, there were specific stipulations to help the airline workers directly. It should not be any different for restaurant employees. While the pandemic has exacerbated many systemic inequalities in our workforce system, we can use what we’ve learned to build a more resilient and equitable stimulus funding system. 

The stimulus package is a historical achievement and a significant step forward in our long fight for the rights of restaurant workers.