Republican leaders of the Connecticut House of Representatives released a plan on Wednesday that would bring additional financial relief to restaurants and bars across the state that are struggling financially because of the pandemic.
The GOP plan would create a $50 million grant program for those businesses with qualifying monetary losses; suspend liquor permitting fees and food licensing fees for one year for certain businesses, and delay municipal property tax payments for 90 days. They also want the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development to partner with financial institutions to create another low-interest loan program.
The state is currently using some of its federal coronavirus relief aid to issue grants of up to $5,000 to small businesses, including restaurants, but the Connecticut Restaurant Association has said a greater share of that money from the federal CARES Act is needed to help prevent thousands of establishments from permanently closing. Candelora agreed the demand for financial help is huge, noting that 18,000 restaurants applied for the state's current program and only 55% will be able to get grants.
Candelora acknowledged the GOP's proposed program would help just about 2,000 businesses, depending on how many apply. But he said it will also help state policymakers “gauge how bad Connecticut is really suffering in this area, which I don’t think we truly understand.”
He and Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, the ranking GOP House member on the legislature's Finance Revenue and Bonding Committee, said they're open to other ways to help restaurant owners, including possibly forgiving an earlier, state bridge loan program or forgiving late fees on certain license renewals.
“This is the beginning, I think, of a long conversation next session,” Candelora said. The new legislative session is scheduled to begin on Jan. 6.
While Lamont said he and the lawmakers are “on the same path" in terms of wanting to help the restaurants, the governor stressed the state only has limited funds available to provide “a bridge” to whatever additional financial help the federal government might provide.