coronavirus stimulus

Chicago Restaurants, Businesses Optimistic After COVID Relief Bill Passed by House

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Chicago businesses and residents are optimistic Wednesday after the House passed a $1.9 trillion economic recovery bill, sending the measure to President Joe Biden’s desk.

The bill, which includes $1,400 payments for nearly 85% of adults in the state of Illinois, also contains aid earmarked for school districts, local governments, and state governments as they try to reverse the damage left by the coronavirus pandemic over the last 12 months.

At Nipsey’s Restaurant and Lounge on 92nd and South Stony Island, it’s open call for new staff as the restaurant looks to step up indoor dining.

“We had a bigger turnout than any of us anticipated, and it’s great to see faces of people ready and eager to get back working,” Brittany Onwukewe said. “And we will provide opportunities for them.”

The business had been forced to lay off most of its staff during the pandemic, and ownership is hopeful that the new recovery bill will provide them with funds to hire back staff as business ramps up.

“I’m offering $150 to employees to get vaccinated,” owner Teddy Gilmore said. “Once they get vaccinated, we’ll give them another $150, so it opens the doors of the place safely and allows us to hire plenty of people in the community.”

The bill features a total of $28.6 billion in grants for restaurants who saw revenues decline during the pandemic in 2020. The bill calls for grants equal to the amount of restaurants’ revenue losses, up to a maximum of $10 million per company and $5 million per location.

The House is expected to vote on a $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill that includes billions in relief money for states, local governments, schools, vaccines and small businesses. The bill includes a $1,400 for low and middle-income families, as well as up to an additional $300 per child.

Approximately $5 billion of that money was set aside for businesses whose annual revenue is $500,000 or less.

At Dozzy’s Grill in the South Loop, ownership is optimistic that the grant money will help them bounce back after a tough year because of the virus.

“The relief bill will allow me to continue to grow my audience base and meet their needs,” Dozzy Ibekwe said. “I would be able to hire a few more full-time employees.”

The bill doesn’t just help restaurants, either. The legislation features billions in funding for schools to help close budget gaps and to improve safety measures to encourage a return to in-person learning, and Chicago Public Schools is expected to receive just under $1.8 billion in funding.

The bill also includes funds for more COVID testing, monies to help roll out additional doses of vaccine across the United States, and even money earmarked specifically for local governments. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the city of Chicago could potentially use some of the stimulus funds to bring back several events that were canceled or moved to virtual settings in 2020, including the Air and Water Show and the Taste of Chicago.

“If it’s safe, of course I’ll be there!” resident Cassie Caldwell said. “The relief for me is just getting out of the house.”

The bill will head to Biden’s desk, and the president is expected to sign the legislation on Friday.

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