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Sick calls prompt new push for extra relief for Arizona restaurants

There is a renewed bipartisan push to replenish the federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
There is a renewed bipartisan push to replenish the federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund.(Arizona's Family)
Updated: Jan. 13, 2022 at 7:09 AM MST
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GLENDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Nick DiLello reopened Bottega Pizzeria Ristorante in Glendale restaurant Tuesday afternoon, following a slew of sick calls for COVID-19 that forced a temporary closure.

“We celebrated New Year’s Eve, and then we were closed New Year’s Day. Starting the second, we started getting messages from our staff saying that they weren’t feeling well; they were going to get tested,” DiLello said. “It just made no sense for us to stay open. We couldn’t stay open.”

Restaurants across the country are dealing with similar staffing shortages and tough choices. “It’s costly for our team and costly for our restaurant,” DiLello told 3 On Your Side. “If I’m going to put a number on it, you’re talking in excess of $50,000.

Now there is a renewed bipartisan push to replenish the federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund. Mayors from dozens of cities like Nashville and Chicago warned with a surge of the omicron variant, “the impact on our local economies will be catastrophic.” Last year, lawmakers allocated $28.6 billion to the Restaurant Revitalization Fund for things like payroll, rent, and the construction of outdoor seating. All of the money was claimed almost immediately.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 3,992 restaurants in Arizona applied for help. Just 1,325 received the grant money, totaling about $295 million.

“It was something that we didn’t even apply for,” DiLello said. “It was very short-lived. Funds were limited.” Though Bottega Pizzeria could potentially benefit, he says he doesn’t think extra money will solve the problem.

“I think what we need is a better mitigation plan in place. Obviously, the virus is not going anywhere, but if we had a better plan to where we all followed the same guidelines and restrictions, then maybe we could keep our staff employed,” DiLello said.

Over the summer, Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema championed a bipartisan bill that would have pumped billions of new dollars into the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. The legislation stalled, but discussions about restaurant relief continue.