With Washington silent, states are torn between saving bars and stopping coronavirus

Bar owners in Texas, where the governor ordered mass closings in June to confront rising infections, have held protests in recent weeks, with some warning that they’re on the verge of financial collapse.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Economists, trade groups and many lawmakers in both parties argue that Congress and the White House need to send a massive infusion of aid directly to businesses and institutions that are the hardest to safely reopen in order to prevent permanent economic damage.

Members of Congress have proposed a variety of bills to provide loans or grants to those industries. In the House, the RESTAURANTS Act would provide $120 billion in grants to independent restaurants and bars — rather than large chains — to make up for lost revenue this year. It has 188 co-sponsors so far, including five Republicans. A companion bill in the Senate, co-sponsored by Mississippi Republican Roger Wicker and Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, has 27 sponsors, including support from Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York.

“Trump is always yammering and pushing to move it faster, and I know from my own experience that state and local authorities feel like they’re caught in the middle,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., a lead sponsor of the House bill.