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Restaurant recovery voter guide: US Senate |

Candidate: Jaime Harrison

Party: Democrat

Has Harrison ever worked in a restaurant? No

Jaime Harrison. Provided

First-ever favorite restaurant: I can’t say for certain, but my favorite restaurant of all time was Brown Derby in Orangeburg. It was a family owned soul food restaurant that had the best cornbread and sweet potato pie!

Most recent restaurant experience: COA Agaveria y Cocina was my last takeout experience, and it was delicious.


Do you support the Restaurants Act?

Yes, I believe this measure is critical because from barbecue in the Midlands to seafood in the Lowcountry, our state has a proud culinary tradition that attracts tourists and investment from around the world.

This pandemic has been devastating for so many of our state’s beloved dining establishments and the people who work for them — the restaurant workforce is still down about 2.3 million since the pandemic began. Furthermore, we are facing even more uncertainty as we head into the colder months.

I would certainly support the Restaurants Act, which sets up a $120 billion fund to provide critical funding for independent restaurants and bars that have been hit hard by the pandemic. Supporting restaurants means supporting the entire tourism industry, which supports 1 in 10 South Carolina jobs.

If elected, what specific actions will you take regarding small, independently owned restaurants?

Over 15,000 restaurants are estimated to have closed permanently since this pandemic began. In addition to working to pass the Restaurants Act, I will fight to renew and reform the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which has left far too many South Carolina small businesses in the dust while sending money to Fortune 500 companies.

Our state is ranked 50th in the country in PPP funds received per worker. We have to extend the loan forgiveness periods for the program and set funds aside for businesses with fewer employees to make sure these loans are accessible to vulnerable small businesses.

Eight million Americans have been plunged into poverty since May, dragging down growth in consumer spending and restaurant revenue along with it. So I’ll work to restore the unemployment relief provisions in the CARES Act, which served as a lifeline for our state’s businesses by injecting up to $120 million per week into the South Carolina economy.


Do you support raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour?

Yes, I believe this measure is critical because it is long past time for Congress to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. At the current level, a full-time minimum wage worker in South Carolina only receives $15,000 a year in wages. Hard-working people across the state and the country have seen their wages stagnate over the last decade.

Families shouldn’t need to make a choice between putting food on the table or paying the bills. Ultimately, moving towards a $15/hour minimum wage will not only lift up working class families, it will also lift up our entire economy.

If elected, what specific actions will you take regarding restaurant worker pay?

I support the extension of paid leave tax credits for businesses in the HEROES Act, which will help make sure that workers who feel sick are able to affordably stay home, thereby cutting the risk of transmission and making sure our economy can reopen safely.

In addition to raising the minimum wage, I will work to pass the Restaurants Act, which will provide much needed relief to struggling restaurants so they can keep their workers employed and paid. I also support the HEROES Act’s increase to the employee retention tax credit from 50 percent of qualified wages to 80 percent of qualified wages.


Do you support extending an extra $600 per week, or another amount, to people now on unemployment?

Yes, I believe this measure is critical because this support was vital to families and small businesses struggling to keep their heads above water during this challenging time.

Just a few days after the CARES Act was signed into law, Sen. (Lindsey) Graham held a news conference to say “over our dead bodies” would the Senate extend this essential lifeline. Unfortunately, he got his wish — and our economy is suffering for it: More than 8 million Americans have slipped into poverty since May.

If elected, what specific actions will you take regarding unemployment benefits?

I will push for the immediate resumption of the unemployment relief provided in the CARES Act. This relief injected as much as $120 million into our state’s economy every week and helped keep small businesses and families away from financial ruin.


Do you support the creation of a federal program to bolster coverage of business interruption insurance claims related to a pandemic?

Yes, I believe this measure is critical because this pandemic has hit the hospitality industry and their workers particularly hard, and the federal government should have their backs at a time like this. Too many workers have been laid off, and too many businesses aren’t getting the help they need.

Business interruption insurance for hazards like the COVID-19 pandemic ensures that our economy can operate at full capacity after the pandemic and that small businesses across the state can weather this storm. Experts say 95 percent of Black-owned businesses were locked out of the PPP due to a lack of previous relationships with some of our nation’s biggest banks. That’s a disaster for our state’s economy.

South Carolina ranks 50th, worst in the nation, for PPP dollars granted per worker. Lindsey Graham has not made reforming this program a priority, and South Carolinians are paying the price.

If elected, what specific actions will you take regarding pandemic-related revenue losses in the restaurant industry?

In addition to working to pass the Restaurants Act and working to renew the unemployment relief from the CARES Act, which will help stimulate the economy and give more spending power to consumers, I will work to extend the loan forgiveness period for PPP loans and ensure that vulnerable small businesses with fewer employees get relief.


Do you support the creation of a federal long-term loan program with favorable terms, covering at least six months of restaurant operating expenses?

Yes, I believe this measure is critical because allowing these restaurants to close would be a tragedy for workers and spell economic disaster.

Due to the high fixed costs associated with opening a restaurant, mass closures of restaurants like we are seeing today contribute to widespread losses that cannot be recouped. A long-term loan program would help restaurants recover from this short-term shock and protect worker livelihoods.

We need to do more to increase access to capital for small business owners through the Small Business Administration. Given the severity of this current economic crisis, the current programs for small businesses are simply not enough.

If elected, what specific actions will you take regarding the long-term survival of restaurants?

I will work to renew and reform PPP and to pass the Restaurants Act to ensure restaurants can hang on to their employees and weather these difficult times.


Do you support a tax credit for restaurant investments in virus spread reduction, such as personal protective equipment; sanitation systems and employee education?

Yes, I believe this measure is critical because restaurants should not face undue financial barriers to outfitting their facilities in a way that is safe for everyone.

Our economy more than anything needs stability right now. We can’t get our economy back on track if our workforce is getting sick or if folks are too afraid to go out and support restaurants. When people see that restaurants have the support they need to keep their employees and customers safe, business will recover.

If elected, what specific actions will you take regarding the restoration of consumer confidence in restaurants?

I support giving restaurants a tax credit to ensure they have the sanitation protocols and equipment necessary to operate safely. This would help keep businesses open, keep customers safe, and give business owners the confidence they need to start making long-term investments once again.


Following health care workers; first responders and high-risk individuals, do you support prioritizing those in the food supply chain, including agricultural workers and restaurant employees, for COVID-19 testing and vaccine access?

Possibly. I would consider supporting it. The pandemic has often hit frontline workers the hardest — those Americans who have no choice but to come in contact with people throughout the course of their work. I would have to listen to our federal scientists and public health experts on how to best distribute a vaccine, but I do believe that it’s important that frontline workers are able to get tested frequently.

If elected, what specific actions will you take regarding the safety of the nation’s food supply?

Keeping workers safe means keeping our food supply safe. No worker should be fired for taking time off to recover from an illness. I will fight to enact federal paid sick leave legislation, which will help make sure that workers at South Carolina’s meat processing plants can affordably seek care and recover. That would help reduce the spread of COVID and keep harmful germs out of our food supply.


Do you support expanding the scope of the Restaurant Meals Program so all users of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits can access food from restaurants?

Yes, I believe this measure is critical. Expanding the USDA’s Restaurant Meals Program would be a good idea, certainly in the short-term as our economy continues to recover. By doing so, we could help struggling families access nutrition, while also boosting struggling restaurants at the same time.

If elected, what specific actions will you take regarding hunger relief?

One in four children in South Carolina are expected to experience food insecurity over the next few months as our state’s economy remains severely hurt by this pandemic. To me, that’s unacceptable.

Congress needs to set politics aside and work to include food assistance in the next COVID relief bill. In addition to supporting food assistance, I will work to eliminate food deserts by incentivizing investment in areas that lack access to healthy and affordable food. I will also work to raise SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps) and to expand the number of farmers markets and other food providers that accept SNAP and other food voucher program

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