U.S. House passes $55 billion in COVID aid for restaurants, other hard-hit firms

A Chinese restaurant and barber shop in Harlem are closed, as retail sales suffer record drop during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, New York, U.S., April 15, 2020. REUTERS/Bryan R Smith/

WASHINGTON, April 7 (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved a $55 billion COVID-19 aid bill aimed at helping restaurants, bars and other businesses that are still struggling through the pandemic.

By a vote of 223-203, the House approved the measure earmarking $42 billion for restaurants that have applied for aid but not received it because a $28.6 billion fund is depleted.

The measure, which has not yet been considered by the Senate, was moving through the House as Congress was about to embark on a nearly three-week spring recess.

The legislation was supported by only a handful of Republicans.

Democrats argued that the measure will not add to U.S. budget deficits because it would be financed with funds recouped from fraudulent claims under the program that was created a year ago in Democratic President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan legislation. That $1.9 trillion law provided coronavirus aid and stimulus for the U.S. economy.

Representatives Dean Phillips and Earl Blumenauer said nearly 300,000 restaurants and bars applied for the grants in 2021, but only about one-third received relief.

Since the start of the pandemic in early 2020, some 90,000 restaurants and bars have closed due to a lack of business, the Democratic lawmakers said.

Reporting by Richard Cowan; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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