Michigan restaurants push for federal funding package

Zingerman's one of many Michigan businesses pushing for bill passage

A bill meant to help struggling restaurants has hit a roadblock in Washington.

DETROIT – As restaurants struggle to weather the pandemic, some are calling for the passage of a measure co-sponsored by Michigan members of Congress that has stalled in the House amid tense negotiations about another stimulus funding package.

The legislation is known as the Restaurants Act. It would set aside $120 billion to help prop up independent restaurants and the millions of workers who have lost their jobs over the last few months.

Among those calling for the bill’s passage is Zingerman’s -- which has been a part of life in Ann Arbor since 1982. But the pandemic has rocked the landmark deli and its community of restaurants.

“The restaurant, the cafe, the local diner, those are the places that have really created a lot of that fabric of community,” said Ari Weinzweig, founding partner of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses.

Weinzweig has pushed for the passage of the Restaurant Act, urging small restaurants need more help as bills pile up and dining rooms stay empty.

“The PPP loans were awesome but it’s like they got you a mile and a half over a ten mile bridge. A ten mile wide river and so the bridge is running out and there’s still eight and a half miles to get across,” Weinzweig said.

“Restaurants are the backbone of so many of our communities. we’ve got to make sure we keep them strong,” Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell (MI-12) said during a panel discussion on Facebook last month.

Dingell was an early co-sponsor of the bill after being urged to back the bill by Weinzweig. Reps. Dan Kildee (MI-5), Elissa Slotkin (MI-8) and Andy Levin (MI-9) have cosigned the bill. Both of Michigan’s senators are also supportive of the measure.

As talks between the White House and Congressional Democrats and it’s unclear whether it’s part of the strained negotiations on a new stimulus package, as time for restaurants is running out.

“This is tough and I believe and hope we will get through this at Zingerman’s, but it’s not going to be easy,” Weinzweig said.

About the Author:

Grant comes to Local 4 from Oklahoma City. He joins the news team as co-anchor of Local 4 News Today weekend mornings and is a general assignment reporter.