Ryan Urges Bonds to Boost Restaurants, Retail

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan wants the federal government to issue war bonds to provide help for the restaurant and retail industry. 

The proposal is among the actions members of Ohio’s delegation to Congress are taking and measures they are putting forth to address the coronavirus pandemic. 

U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman have called on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs requesting an extension for filing of claims and appeals for veterans’ compensation benefits. Portman and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., have also introduced a resolution to permit remote voting during the pandemic. 

Ryan’s proposal would allow Americans to purchase bonds, raising money that small businesses could use to stay afloat during the economic downturn that has resulted from the outbreak. Ryan, D-13 Ohio, wants to direct the funds to restaurants and retail businesses, two segments that have been hit particularly hard by layoffs and closings.

Such businesses are often left out of government business assistance packages, he said. 

“I want them to be front and center,” he said. “Getting this cash infusion to these local businesses will be key to helping them survive.” 

Several restaurateurs joined Ryan for the news conference. Following a state order that prohibits dine-in service, some restaurants are providing carryout and delivery service, while others have had to shutter entirely for the duration. 

“It’s a real tough time right now, and in real tough times we need real-time answers,” said Michael Alberini, owner of Michael Alberini’s Restaurant & Wine Shop in Boardman. 

Retaining staff idled during the outbreak was a prime concern for Alberini and other restaurateurs at Ryan’s news conference, which took place Friday at V2 Wine Bar & Trattoria downtown.

“We’re living hour by hour right now,” said Mark Canzonetta, owner of Bistro 1907 in downtown Youngstown.

Canzonetta had to lay off his entire staff of 84 employees, he reported. He was optimistic that things will be better in two or three months, but ramping up once restaurants are allowed to resume normal operations will be a slow process, requiring capital for training, inventory and other expenses. 

“It’s going to be slow gearing up,” he said. 

The public doesn’t realize how many people are employed in the restaurant industry, said Christian Rinehart, who operates O’Donold’s Irish Pub & Grill, Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts and Mission Taco.

Rinehart, whose restaurants are “definitely more bar-centered” than others, took a hit with the prohibition on mass gatherings dampening St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. The holiday accounts for about 60% of the year’s business, he said. 

The Treasury Department would issue the bonds, which would earn interest for the purchaser, Ryan said. Though he thinks the department could do this without congressional approval, he is working to get the proposal included in the new stimulus package now being debated. 

“[The bonds] would be an opportunity to make an investment, make interest on your investment and know that money is getting directed to small businesses in our community,” Ryan said.    

Brown, D-Ohio, and Portman, R-Ohio, are requesting a veterans’ claims and appeals extension because the VA has closed its regional offices. They are calling for a six-month delay for each phase of claims and appeals until Sept. 1. 

“We would like to ensure that our veterans will not be penalized for their inability to respond in the standard timelines due to the nationwide disruption caused by the novel coronavirus response,” the senators wrote in a letter to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie.

Portman and Durbin introduced a resolution Thursday to amend the standing rules of the Senate to permit senators to vote remotely during a national crisis. Current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise against gatherings with more than 50 people, a figure that would include both the 100-member Senate and the 441-member House of Representatives. 

While Portman acknowledged resistance to changing Senate tradition, the issue is worth “robust discussion,” he said.

“In times of a national emergency, the Senate must be able to convene and act expeditiously even if we can’t be together in person,” Portman said. “It’s during times like this, when we have a pandemic affecting every corner of society and we are asking people to stay in their homes, that we should have the ability to convene the Senate and get our work done even if we can’t be in the Capitol.”

Pictured: Bistro 1904 owner Mark Canzonetta and O’Donold’s owner Christian Rinehart talk to U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, who proposes selling bonds to provide aid to restaurants and retailers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.