A group of 150 prominent chefs and restaurant owners have written an open letter endorsing Joe Biden for president, saying that restaurants across the country "are facing an existential crisis because of Donald Trump's mismanagement of COVID-19."
The letter, which was released by the Biden campaign and first reported by Eater, says that while the restaurant business has worked to adapt in the last six months since the pandemic began, "the Trump administration blew the pandemic response."
A stunning 100,000 restaurants, or nearly 1 in 6 across the country, have closed permanently or on a long-term basis since the pandemic began, according to a survey released last week by the National Restaurant Association.
The closures have also resulted in nearly 3 million employees being out of work, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the letter states that the industry is expected to lose $240 billion by the end of the year.
Restaurant owners have had to contend with safety and social distancing measures because of the pandemic that have put businesses on financial life support or do not have a sustainable future. A recent CDC report found people who tested positive for COVID-19 were more than twice as likely to have eaten in a bar or restaurant.
Watch TODAY All Day! Get the best news, information and inspiration from TODAY, all day long.
"Throughout the crisis, the restaurant industry has begged this administration for support," the letter reads. "We have pleaded with officials to fix the PPP program, recognize the oncoming tsunami of restaurant closings that we are now starting to see and respond with a plan. Yet, at every turn, the President has mishandled the response. He has downplayed our struggles, refuted the idea that restaurants will suffer because they rely on social interaction and insisted there were no personal protective equipment shortages that are required to keep restaurant staff safe."
A new proposed bill called the Restaurants Act is seeking to provide relief for the industry. Chef Tom Colicchio, owner of Crafted Hospitality and judge on Bravo’s “Top Chef,” spoke on TODAY last week about the bipartisan bill, which proposes $120 billion in direct relief to restaurants.
The National Restaurant Association also sent a letter to the Trump Administration on Sept. 14 asking for help.
"We're just bleeding money every single day," Colicchio said. "We’re going to see a lot of boarded up spaces and a lot of open spaces for quite some time if we don’t get some assistance here."
Owners of independent restaurants have also expressed their frustration with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which gave money to big chains like Shake Shack while smaller businesses found it difficult to secure a loan or assistance.
The popular burger chain, which has almost 250 locations globally, announced in April that it was returning a $10 million PPP loan. Another large chain, Ruth's Chris Steak House, returned a $20 million PPP loan after public outrage that included an online petition signed by more than 200,000 people.
When TODAY asked the White House if the president was planning to provide further relief to restaurants and make it easier for smaller businesses to access those funds, Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere issued this response: "The fact is that President Trump took unprecedented and decisive steps to provide assistance to small businesses impacted by COVID-19 and he’s fully prepared to do more, but Democrats in Congress are still focused on playing politics and hurting hardworking Americans like those in the restaurant industry."
"In failing to lead our country through this crisis, Donald Trump has proven his unfitness to hold the office of the presidency," the open letter reads. "He has failed the restaurant industry, our employees, our customers, and the stakes are too high to continue down this path. America needs a new direction and real leadership. We need to elect Joe Biden as the next President of the United States."
The letter says that Biden will establish a small business fund with resources set aside for restaurants as well as loans for small businesses to keep workers on the payroll.
"Without a change in leadership, many of our businesses simply will not survive to see the end of this crisis," the letter concludes.