YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The Independent Restaurant Coalition sent a letter to Congress on Thursday, pleading for lawmakers to take action on the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF).

Bars and Restaurants from across the U.S., including Ohio, signed the letter asking for Congress to replenish the fund and said that businesses have been waiting 200 days without support and are in danger of closing due to pandemic losses.

See a list of business signers here.

While many restaurants already received the funding, the coalition said there are still 177,000 applicants still waiting for funding.

The letter cites over 20 months of accumulating debt, rising food costs, and consumer hesitancy reinvigorated by the Omicron variant.

“Congress can prevent thousands of businesses from closing, a massive supply chain disruption, and widespread job loss by replenishing the Restaurant Revitalization Fund immediately,” said Erika Polmar, executive director of the Independent Restaurant Coalition.

Even though many bars and restaurants have reported a busy summer and fall, they have not “begun to recoup the loss we experienced over the pandemic,” said Lindsay Mescher, chef and owner of Greenhouse Cafe in Lebanon, Ohio.

“It’s extremely unfair that some restaurants got relief and others didn’t,” she said. “By not replenishing these funds, Congress is saying that some restaurants are worth saving and others aren’t.”

According to the coalition, there are 500,000 independent restaurants and bars in the U.S., which employ 16 million people.

More than 86% of restaurant and bar owners report they will close without an RRF grant, according to a survey by the Independent Restaurant Colation.

The RRF program provides emergency assistance for eligible restaurants, bars and other qualifying businesses impacted by COVID-19. The program will provide restaurants with funding equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss of up to $10 million per business and no more than $5 million per physical location.