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Sen. Sinema holds roundtable with hard-hit Arizona business owners

 

PHOENIX — U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona hosted a roundtable Monday with restaurant and event venue owners who are still licking their financial wounds and seeking assistance when it comes to making their way out of the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Outside Crescent Ballroom in downtown Phoenix, the entrepreneurs were greeted with elbow bumps and masked smiles from the senator, who began on an optimistic note.

“I’m looking forward to getting back to normal life with restaurants and concerts,” Sinema said.

Those in attendance ranged from mom-and-pop-style, sole restaurant owners to concert venue operators, local franchise owners and those who have even branched out into manufacturing.

As the meeting progressed, Sinema touted not only the recent extension of the Payroll Protection Plan but also explained two upcoming opportunities for the industries to utilize.

Sinema was a key player in passing the more than $25 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund and the soon-to-come $15 billion Save our Stages Act.

She explained the latest funding for restaurants is expected to roll out over the next two weeks, starting with smaller businesses — those earning $500,000 annually or less — receiving first priority.

The Restaurant Revitalization Fund goes a step further than previous Paycheck Protection Program loans by allowing restaurant owners autonomy in deciding how funding is spent. The new fund allows for up to $5 million for a single restaurant and up to $10 million for owners with multiple locations.

Just a week prior to that, the Save our Stages Act, designed specifically for independent event venue owners like those hosting the meeting at Crescent Ballroom, will open for enrollment.

Small questions and concerns began to arise. One owner said, “it would be nice to have the 2021 [PPP] guidance before the first quarter ends in a couple of days so we can take that credit now so we don’t have to file a new form.”

Sinema assured the business owner a call would be made Monday since the quarter ends in three days.

Other concerns and suggestions included possible independent reviews for rejected applications and ensuring that money is being distributed fairly among those in need.

As more questions or concerns came up, Sinema offered new contacts, follow-ups from her own staff and even the idea of virtual information sessions to ensure all Arizona business owners in need could access the needed information.

But the meeting wasn’t without some controversy, one business owner expressed explicit concern over recently lifted mask mandates at the local level following Gov. Doug Ducey’s order last week.

“I was also very disappointed with that,” Sinema responded. “I actually, just this morning, said to a friend that the problem with what recently happened and removing the ability for mayors or counties to have a mask mandate is that it puts the onus back on business owners.”

“And look, life’s already tough, you’re just trying to survive,” she continued. “Now you have to argue with people.”

The owner went on to discuss concern for how that plays out in his employees working for tips.

Ultimately, the senator ended the meeting on a positive note, looking to the future and insisting her office was there to help.

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For Arizona vaccine information, visit azdhs.gov/findvaccine.

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

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