GAUTIER, Miss. (WLOX) - Struggling Mississippians can soon expect some relief from the federal government. On Thursday, President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 billion COVID-19 relief package into law. Included in that money is $28.6 billion that will go to restaurants and bars hit hard by the pandemic.
It’s money that can help locally owned restaurants like Cornerstone in Gautier.
Cornerstone has been serving food to people on the Coast since December 1997. After 23 years of being in business, owner Tommy Jackson said he thought his dream was coming to an end when the pandemic shut everything down in March 2020.
“When the pandemic first hit, yes, I honestly thought it was probably over with,” said Jackson. “But you know, we fought through it.”
The money included in the COVID-19 relief bill will help restaurants like Cornerstone continue to fight by providing money that can help with all of their expenses, from rent to payroll to sick leave for employees.
“Family-owned businesses can’t afford to pay that,” said Jackson. “They can’t keep paying their employees without the income.”
As to-go orders took the place of indoor dining, Cornerstone began to see a loss of customers, further hurting the income of the wait staff. For Jackson though, the COVID-19 relief bill provides a sense of security knowing that he will be able to pay his staff what they deserve.
“75% of our staff was laid off immediately when the pandemic started,” he said. “Our employees, they deserve what’s right.”
Cornerstone recently moved from Pascagoula to Gautier to a bigger space and are hopeful that 2021 will be much better than 2020.
“I think with the vaccine and all, I think probably by the end of the year, I think people are going to be getting back out,” said Jackson. “It’s going to be better than it’s been in years.”
According to the National Restaurant Association, an estimated 110,000 restaurants, roughly one in six, closed in 2020.