PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Joe Seriale is the owner of Joe's Diner in Phoenix. Like a lot of restaurant owners, Seriale has spent the past year struggling to stay in business during the pandemic. He was initially forced him to shut down, then was able re-open with limited seating and an assortment of health precautions.

"The losses were absolutely staggering on how much money I was losing," said Seriale. "I knew I would make it through, I just didn't know what condition I would come out the other side."

Restaurant sales are down 27% across the state, forcing more than 1,000 Arizona restaurants to go out of business.

But for the establishments that have managed to keep their doors open, some much-needed help may be on the way. According to the Arizona Restaurant Association, $45 billion will be directed to the hard-hit restaurant industry, as part of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package making its way through Congress.

Steve Chucri is president of the Arizona Restaurant Association. "We're never going to make up for lost dollars, but we can certainly get people back to work. And we can certainly try to get back engaged before the summer months hit here in Arizona, which is tough time for restaurants, as well," said Chucri.

Seriale would have liked to have seen the additional help from Washington a few months ago, but he certainly won't complain about the assistance now. "It will definitely keep us afloat and keep my people employed," said Seriale. "I can actually add a cook at this stage, which I couldn't have said before this."

Jason Barry is best known for his Dirty Dining Report which airs Fridays at 6:30 p.m. on CBS 5.  He is also the storyteller behind CBS 5's Pay It Forward which airs every Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

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