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Michigan Senate passed two bills to support local food establishments

Updated: Jun. 9, 2021 at 4:36 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Financial breaks may be in store for restaurants and other food establishments that were deeply impacted by the pandemic.

Each year the state of Michigan charges food establishments a licensing fee. Two new Michigan senate bills (353 and 354) would waive those fees through April 30, 2022.

“It’s depends on the type of facility you have, what food you serve, how big your kitchen is, so it can vary for everybody, mine was $1,100,” Owner of Onondaga Tavern, Chris Potter said.

Those are the yearly licensing fee expenses that Potter pays for his tavern, he says it would be great if this bill would pass so he can be refunded the money. VanderWall stated that any food establishment that has already paid the licensing fee in May or June will be reimbursed.

“Every dollar we can put back in the pocket of our struggling small business restaurant or food establishment would be very important,” Senator Curt VanderWall said.

“During this whole time, you get shut down, you’re only able to operate at limited capacity, limited hours, so what bars and restaurants would have made the past year, we probably made 30% of what we normally would have made, so any money we can get back or help put back in the business is huge,” Potter said.

In addition to the lost revenue he said he needs to hire at least two to three more employees.

“I think we can look at any restaurant right now and we see that they all have help wanted signs they are all stuck at 50% capacity their business model they are still operating on reduced hours mandated by the state, and these are all areas that they used to have revenue and now that revenue stream is being restricted,” VanderWall said.

VanderWall believes these bills would be crucial to their survival but they can have an impact on the local health departments too.

“They (the health departments) do collect a fee and we want to make sure that with these COVID dollars that have been given out that our cities and counties can reimburse the health department for those lost fees,” VanderWall said.

Ingham County Health Department sent News 10 a statement in response to the bill:

“I am deeply sympathetic to restaurants and other food service establishments, which lost significant revenue over the course of the pandemic,” said Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail. “Waiving licensing fees would help many food service establishments. I don’t take issue with the concept, but the bill lacks a thorough plan for implementing this pause and replacing the funding through some other source. Food licensing fees pay for restaurant inspections that keep our food supply safe. The majority of the fees directly support the salaries of local restaurant inspectors. Without a plan to cover this cost, local health departments would be faced with significant deficits or reductions in staffing, possibly adversely impacting local food safety. ICHD charges fees ranging from $152-$935 per year depending upon the type of food service operation and complexity of the menu. In total, this represents roughly $500,000 of the Ingham County Health Department’s budget,” Vail said.

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