Alice Davis, owner of Bergstein’s Deli, with her daughter, Rachel, talks about the impact federal assistance had on the business during the pandemic. From left, behind her, is Chicago Heights Mayor David Gonzalez, U.S. Rep Robin Kelly and Chicago Heights Alderman George Brassea. (Nick Ulanowski/H-F Chronicle)
Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Il, said she was proud to have voted for the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund, and Alice Davis, the owner of Bergstein’s NY Deli in Chicago Heights, said that without the money from that fund Bergstein’s and other south suburban restaurants would’ve gone out of business during the pandemic.
At a press conference in front of Bergstein’s on Monday, Sept. 13, Kelly and Davis, a Homewood resident, hailed the Revitalization Fund as a lifesaver for many small businesses.
“Bergstein’s has been here for 13 years and is a gem in the south suburbs,” said Kelly who represents Homewood and Flossmoor in Illinois’ 2nd District. “But like so many other restaurants across the Chicagoland and the nation, this family-owned deli was in danger of closing its doors because of the pandemic.
“We passed the American Rescue Plan to help businesses and restaurants through this crisis. We also included billions in dollars in aid specifically for restaurants.”
Davis, in thanking Kelly, said the deli is “a family business. It’s my son, my daughter and myself. […] We kept our carryout but we did lose a lot of catering because we didn’t have big parties and everything. I can say we’d not be open today if it wasn’t for the help.”
“As of the end of June, 4,542 restaurants, bars and other food service establishments in Illinois have received $1.4 billion in funding (from) the Restaurant Revitalization Fund,” Kelly said. “I’m so glad to see this money coming into our communities to support our small businesses. It’s especially important now as the Delta variant forces more restaurants and small businesses to again limit their operations.
“The American Rescue plan was one of the most significant pieces of economic legislation since the New Deal, and I’m proud to have voted for it.”
Chicago Heights Mayor David Gonzalez echoed Kelly’s remarks.
“The small businesses such as Bergstein’s deli represent over 50% of the revenue that our towns receive, whether it’s through Cook County or the state of Illinois,” Gonzalez said. “So, we’re all connected here. When they struggle, we struggle. I want to thank Congressman Kelly and the U.S. Congress for their commitment and allocating that $28 billion into the restaurant industry.”
Chicago Heights Ald. George Brassea (5th) thanked Kelly for “being our voice in Capitol Hill and taking care of us in the 5th Ward.”
Also in the audience were members of the Chicago Heights police and fire departments, Prairie State College trustees and employees and other community members.
At the press conference, Kelly also said she supports the two infrastructure bills proposed by House Democrats and that she will vote for them.
“I’m one of the people that supports the ‘care economy’ as we like to call it. I know you guys say ‘human infrastructure,’” said Kelly. “I definitely support the infrastructure package. We need it.”
Before Senate negotiations, the infrastructure package included $45 billion to replace lead pipes in the nation’s water supply system. The proposed bill only includes $15 billion for the lead removal initiative. In June 2019, residents of University Park and Monee Township were warned by the water utility company Aqua Illinois to not drink the drinking water due to unsafe amounts of lead.
The proposed infrastructure package includes funding to rebuild the nation’s roads, schools and highspeed rail. It adds vision, hearing and dental benefits to Medicare and lowers the eligibility age. The package includes another bill, the American Families Plan, which contains a blueprint to make community colleges such as Prairie State College free for two years.
“I support whatever we can do to get these two bills passed,” said Kelly. “People need help. And we can do it. And we need to do it.”
The Restaurant Revitalization Fund Kelly hailed was a part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.