Congress Should Pull Federal Funds From Cities That Shut Down Restaurants

Op-ed at The Federalist from Rep. Budd

https://thefederalist.com/2021/01/29/congress-should-pull-federal-funds-from-cities-that-shut-down-restaurants/

Let’s start with a simple truth: restaurants are not driving the spread of COVID-19. In New York, restaurants accounted for less than 2 percent of infections, in Los Angeles less than 4 percent and in Minnesota, less than 1 percent.

Despite these facts, Democratic governors and mayors across America continue to arbitrarily keep restaurant dining shut down. In recent months, the governors of New York, Washington, Michigan, Illinois, and Oregon have all issued orders shutting down indoor dining. And California Gov. Gavin Newsom even issued an order shutting down outdoor dining in certain parts of California.

For being the party that claims to “stand up for science,” Democratic Party governors seem dead set on ignoring basic scientific facts at the expense of hardworking men and women. Dining bans are devastating to the livelihoods of thousands of restaurant workers and owners across America. Restaurants and bars lost a horrendous 372,000 jobs in December alone.

In a tearful video, Angela Marsden, a Los Angeles restaurant owner, explained how she is “losing everything” from California’s shutdown order barring her from hosting outdoor dining at her restaurant. With approximately 17 percent of restaurants having to permanently close since the start of the pandemic, Eduardo Rosado of New York says he wakes up every morning worried that he is next to be let go from his job.

The shutdown orders are also unfair to the restaurant owners who spent huge sums of money attempting to make dining safe. Dino Ferraro, the owner of two Southern California restaurants, says he spent thousands of dollars cleaning and disinfecting both of his businesses only to be met with more restrictions. Michael Lachowicz, the owner of several restaurants in Winnetka, Illinois, said he spent $7,200 for a hospital-grade air filtration system that he couldn’t use because of Illinois’s ban on indoor dining.

To make matters worse, the Democrat officials issuing these shutdown orders don’t follow their own rules. After telling citizens not to gather with others outside their households, Newsom was caught red-handed and maskless at a fancy French restaurant along with multiple people outside his household.

Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia was spotted dining at an indoor restaurant in Maryland after banning indoor dining in his city, and Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo was caught maskless at a wine bar after telling her constituents to stay home. These hypocritical Democrats are acting like the elites they represent. To them, the rules are for the little people.

The shutdowns have little to do with science and more to do with Democrats wanting the government to have maximum control over people’s lives. That is why I recently introduced the Save Our Servers Act. This legislation declares that any state, city, or county that “has passed and is enforcing a law or orders restricting or prohibiting indoor or outdoor dining at restaurants,” will have all of their federal grant funding under Title II of the Public Works and Economic Development Act of 1965 suspended immediately.

This much-needed legislation would apply to cities like Washington, D.C., New York, San Francisco, and St. Louis County. Jurisdictions could only have federal funds restored when the shutdown orders are no longer in effect. It’s a “carrot and stick” approach that would force overzealous cities to relent, allowing restaurants to safely reopen.

Given the fact that dining at restaurants accounts for a minuscule number of COVID-19 infections, the restaurant restrictions we see in cities across our country are completely illogical and crushing to the lives of thousands of servers, owners, and food service workers. It’s time that we force these oppressive governors and mayors to reverse course, allow restaurants to safely operate, and help servers make a living again.

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