Texas businesses in need of COVID-19 relief bill to help cover pandemic debt

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Texas Restaurant Association is asking congress for more COVID-19 relief as more than 10,000 restaurants in the state have shut down due to the pandemic, and many more are in jeopardy as they brace for tougher months.

Michael Shine, owner of Frank's Americana Revival, said the restaurant's revenue is down more than 45% compared to last year. He said December is usually the make-or-break month for restaurant and retail stores.

"We're blessed, but we're still down," Shine said. "We're in trouble no matter what because we are so desperately deep. You have restaurants down 40 to 50%, and in some cases $700,000 to $800,000 in decline in revenue."

According to the Texas Restaurant Association, 30% of Texas restaurant owners said it is unlikely their restaurant will still be in business six months from now if congress fails to pass another relief bill.

"You can easily be expecting when you drive down the road, every time you count four restaurants, one of them is going to be closed," said Melissa Stewart, the executive director of Texas Restaurant Association of Greater Houston and Southeast Texas Region. "That is not hyperbole, that is what we are hearing across the United States and here in our Houston market."

According to Houston's Small Business Administration, sources have noted more than 2,000 local businesses have shut down permanently and roughly 1,000 more have closed temporarily since the pandemic hit Houston.

More than 126,000 businesses in the Houston District received SBA Paycheck Protection Program loans, and another 110,000 received SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help stabilize their businesses and keep employees on the payroll.

Deputy District Director Mark Winchester said there are several resources and financial support available for small business owners.

"The economic injury disaster loan is still available," Winchester said. "Small businesses can still apply through Dec. 31."

Arlene Ramirez, Hilton College Instructional Assistant Professor at the University of Houston, said local hotels have seen an increase in bookings recently.

However, it doesn't make up for the loss in revenue.

Ramirez said, according to recent reports, it could take up to 2024 for the hotel industry to recover to "pre-covid" earnings.

"The hotel and restaurants can help you have a Christmas function with the proper distancing. There's plenty of space," Ramirez said. "If we really want to help our hotels and our restaurants, go out and venture and talk to them. Call them up, ask them what their protocol is and they'll tell you."

Shine also suggested for the holidays for people to buy gift cards or order curbside from their favorite local restaurants and stores to help them stay open.

"Our elected officials are going to have to come to the table and at least get through the next phase," Shine said, "Fortunately, I think with the vaccine and where we're moving in that area, and the little customer confidence returning that we are seeing, I think next year we will be in a much better position."

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