When the Covid pandemic took hold in March of 2020, Keith Arnold and his wife, Stephanie Bonin, co-owners of a restaurant in Denver, worried they might face financial disaster.
The crisis forced them to close Duo Restaurant, which serves a farm-to-table contemporary American cuisine.
There was no plan as to what might happen next, as federal and state support addressing the pandemic wasn’t implemented at that time.
They temporarily laid off 12 of their 15 employees.
At the time, Bonin knew she and her husband wouldn’t get unemployment checks. While their staff would receive the benefits, it wouldn’t match their weekly tips and paychecks.
“Their livelihood depended on us,” Bonin said. “That was keeping us up most nights.”
“How are we going keep them working?”
Bonin started a Change.org petition asking for $2,000 each month in aid to every American during the pandemic.
Today, that online call to action continues to draw support, having just over 3 million signatures. Change.org has created a video of personal testimonies of individuals who say they are in need of more federal help.
The milestone comes as the omicron variant is making some small businesses close and schools to question whether children should keep attending classes in person. Meanwhile, some lawmakers on Capitol Hill are discussing what support may be implemented — particularly for businesses like restaurants.
Dems’ BBB proposal has failed to pass on Capitol Hill. That bill would have authorized additional monthly child tax credit payments, though Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has called for a more strict targeting of that support.
Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., stated in an interview this weekend that even more help for Americans might be added to the upcoming federal funding bill.
Bonin and Arnold have recently closed down the Duo Restaurant for a week around the holidays after half of their kitchen staff tested positive for Covid-19.
While they lost around $30,000 in income for that week, they still had to pay about $9,000 toward their payroll because of their paid leave mandates.
If they are forced to close down again, the loss in income will add more financial strain on the restaurant.
Bonin and Arnold, who manage the restaurant virtually from Brattleboro, VM, are also grappling with other Covid uncertainties as parents to their two daughters, ages 9 and 14.
Aid through PPP, which they credit with helping keep their restaurant stay in business in the early stages of the pandemic, is no longer available. Enhanced federal unemployment benefits and stimulus checks dried up this past year. This month, the child tax credit payments stopped coming in.
The uncertainties of the pandemic during the past two years, have kept the Change.org petition popular, Bonin said.
“I think that is what 3 million people have been saying, which is, ‘We just need some certainty. We need to have something we are able to plan on each month,’” Bonin said.