World News

U.S. restaurants seek $455 billion of federal aid due to coronavirus hit

By Hilary Russ

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A U.S. restaurant trade group on Wednesday asked the White House and Congressional leaders for a $455 billion aid package, saying that the industry could shed nearly half of its 15.6 million jobs and at least a quarter of its annual sales because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The group, the Washington, D.C.-based National Restaurant Association, said restaurants could take a $225 billion sales hit in the next three months, a quarter of their projected total sales of $899 billion.

As food service establishments are forced to close or shift operations to delivery, pickup and drive-thru only, the industry could lose as many as 7 million jobs, the group said.

The broader economic impact could be a loss of $675 billion, with every dollar spent in a restaurant generating an additional $2 elsewhere in the national economy, the group said in its letter to U.S. President Donald Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The closures and drastic changes were put in place in an effort to help slow the spread of the respiratory illness that has now infected more than 6,400 nationally and killed more than 100 Americans.

The letter came a day after executives from some of the world’s biggest fast food chains, including McDonald’s Corp <MCD.N>, Restaurant Brands International Inc <QSR.TO> and Yum! Brands Inc <YUM.N> met with Trump and other officials.

The association’s request includes creation of a $145 billion Restaurant and Foodservice Industry Recovery Fund to provide immediate liquidity to operators, $100 billion of federally-backed business interruption insurance and $135 million of disaster unemployment assistance.

“As an industry that is based on welcoming everyone through our doors, we are uniquely affected by mandates that keep us from serving our customers,” the letter said. “Without aggressive and immediate action from the federal government, many restaurants that are a staple of local communities will simply never resume service.”

The letter also asks for $45 billion of loans, $35 billion for federal community block grants for disaster help and tax relief.

(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Berkrot)