Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is calling on the mayor to create a grant program for restaurants that are currently open and serving the city’s health care workers. In the letter, which was sent to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office last week, Adams calls for the creation of a “Hero Grant” specifically aimed to support small restaurants across the city.
While Adams didn’t provide specifics for how much each grant would be worth or how it would be disbursed, his top priority is that restaurants get some type of financial support from the city that would at least cover the cost of the hospital meals, he says.
“This would really help us show our gratitude to those who have stepped up greatly during this time,” he tells Eater.
For the past few weeks, restaurants across the city have mobilized — many launching fundraisers and others doing it on their own dime — to feed the city’s health care workers at dozens of hospitals across the city. Restaurants sales have plummeted for many, but owners have instead chosen to focus their efforts on feeding first responders, and some have even closed to the public just to focus their efforts on feeding health care workers.
While most of these restaurants are relying on donations, Adams says the city should step in with grants that will allow them to continue this work and also help them stay afloat during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Restaurant owners who have been vulnerable populations like seniors or health care workers, though, say they’ve been frustrated with how the government has handled the economic impact on their businesses.
Many say their applications for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) — loans for small businesses that were part of the first federal stimulus package to address the coronavirus crisis — are still pending. Latisha Daring who runs the Crown Heights cafe Greedi Vegan, and has been feeding seniors in the neighborhood for free, is looking to the city for some type of assistance.
“None of us saw this coming and there’s no way we could have prepared for this,” says Daring. “We should have some kind of emergency funds for this.”
Others like Eric Sze, who owns East Village Taiwanese restaurant 886 and has been doing a donation-based health care worker feeding program, aren’t as hopeful for any sort of government assistance. “If history has taught us anything, I’m not optimistic,” he says. “We will probably continue to rely on ourselves.”
Still others in the food industry say its time the government stepped in to help small restaurant owners — not just massive chains like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, which recently announced that it received $20 million from the PPP. Andrew Rigie, the director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, the group that represents thousands of restaurants across the city says restaurants are stepping up to feed health care workers despite being in a crisis themselves.
“Brooklyn Borough President Adams’ proposed grant will help ensure our hero emergency workers are fed, while getting money into the hands of our struggling restaurants, which will stimulate economic activity,” he tells Eater in a statement.
The mayor’s office did not return Eater’s request for comment. Below is a copy of the letter Adams sent to the Mayor’s office.