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Connecticut GOP Proposes $50 Million in Grants, Other Relief for Restaurants and Bars

  • Connecticut GOP proposes $50 million grant program to assist restaurants and bars
  • Proposal also includes a number of other relief measures for these businesses, including a suspension of certain fees and an extension on property taxes
  • Governor Ned Lamont has promised $25 million in additional grants, although these would not be specific to restaurants and bars

Following on the heels of Governor Ned Lamont’s promise Wednesday to offer $25 million to Connecticut’s businesses in another round of grant funding, the state’s Republican Party lobbied for twice this amount to be distributed to Connecticut’s restaurants and bars.

Members of the House GOP are calling for $50 million in grants to these businesses. The grants would be disbursed in amounts between $5,000 and $25,000, with each establishment’s sales tax revenues determining how much it would receive.

The grants would be funded through Connecticut’s share of federal funding through the CARES Act, though Republicans said state funding could also supplement them. Restaurants facing greater revenue challenges due to COVID-19, such as those with limited indoor seating capacity, would receive priority.

The GOP is also proposing a one-year suspension of liquor permitting and food licensing fees for eateries that have lost funds, a 90-day extension on restaurants’ property taxes, and a low-interest loan program negotiated administered through the Department of Economic and Community Development. In addition, it has backed calls by breweries in the state to scrap requirement that these businesses provide “substantial meals” in order to serve customers.

Numerous restaurants were forced to close their doors at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but many experienced a comeback during the summer due to outdoor dining opportunities and a declining number of COVID-19 infections. The industry is again facing an uncertain future due as wintry weather makes outdoor dining less feasible and increasing COVID-19 infections make customers more wary of eating out.

Approximately 600 restaurants in Connecticut have closed during the pandemic, while the typical restaurant has seen business decline by 60 percent from the previous year. Restaurant owners have also complained that neighboring states have offered more robust business assistance programs, including grants of up to $30,000 in Rhode Island and $75,000 in Massachusetts. Connecticut’s most recent grant program capped grants at $5,000.

Lamont, speaking to Middlesex Chamber of Commerce recently, says state is planning another $25 million in grants. While this program and the previous one did not make special considerations for restaurants or bars, Lamont said he anticipates that many of the recipients fall into this category. He also said there are no new restrictions planned for Connecticut restaurants, which are currently limited to 50 percent for indoor dining, despite calls by some in the medical community to temporarily shut down indoor dining.

Lamont also said that President-elect Joe Biden has advised state governors not to expect further state or local aid as part of a federal economic package, although Biden has promised to pursue this relief after he takes office. Aid to state and local governments has been one of the more controversial facets of a proposed bipartisan stimulus bill and may be removed from the final legislation. Lamont says Connecticut is in better shape than other states to balance its budget without federal funds due to its $3.1 billion rainy day fund.

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