Wednesday, February 14, 2024

D.C. Restaurant Visited by Biden Received $600K in COVID Relief. Now It’s Closed; New York Woman Sentenced to Probation and Fines in COVID Aid Fraud Schemes, and other C-Virus related stories

AP Photo/Evan Vucci
D.C. restaurant visited by Biden received $600K in COVID relief. Now it’s closed.
Taqueria Las Gemelas, a District restaurant that received $600,000 in pandemic stimulus money and a visit from President Biden in 2021, has sold its last taco.
The taqueria, located in Northeast’s Union Market District, closed Sunday.
On Cinco de Mayo in 2021, Mr. Biden got takeout from the fast-casual eatery that was the first recipient of a grant from the Small Business Administration’s $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund. Its sister restaurant Destino, a pricier sit-down space in La Cosecha, also shared in the grant.
Both restaurants were shuttered Sunday night, owner Josh Phillips told The Washington Times.
“We tried, and things got more expensive, and the foot traffic we expected and the neighborhood we planned for didn’t materialize in a way we could capitalize on,” Mr. Phillips said Wednesday.
After opening for business in two prominent front-facing spaces in 2021, he said he exhausted the COVID relief funds on payroll and on expanding outdoor dining space to comply with the city’s pandemic restrictions.
The restaurants were busy on weekends, but Mr. Phillips said several office and event spaces the restaurants had expected to provide “a significant source of revenue” during weekdays remained unoccupied.
Of the one inhabited office building, he noted that “not many people actually work there at this point.”
The closures come as restaurants in the nation’s capital have struggled with surging crime rates, rising costs, labor shortages and a sharp drop-off in daily commuters as more people work from home in Virginia and Maryland since the pandemic. --->READ MORE HERE
Seth Wenig / Associated Press
New York woman sentenced to probation and fines in COVID aid fraud schemes:
A Brooklyn woman who pleaded guilty to fraud in connection with various pandemic-era relief schemes was sentenced Thursday to three years of probation and $650,000 in penalties.
Prosecutors said Chanette Lewis, 32, carried out some of the schemes by leveraging her job at a call center, part of a New York program meant to provide health care workers with isolation rooms in hotels. They said she provided free hotel rooms to people she knew weren’t eligible health care workers or COVID-19 patients, including herself.
“During the pandemic, this defendant exploited a COVID-19 safe-lodging program for her personal profit; today she faces the consequences of her criminal conduct. I thank New York City Emergency Management for reporting this matter,” New York Department of Investigation Commissioner Jocelyn Strauber said in a statement.
It’s the latest example of how people are believed to have stolen an estimated $280 billion in government aid during the pandemic across the U.S., including New York. The sentencing Thursday was part of a larger case involving $400,000 of fraud in the hotel program.
Lewis admitted to defrauding the emergency programs, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York said in a statement, and she separately forged legal documents purporting to come from judges, prosecutors and doctors to get 30 people into public housing or into larger public housing apartments. --->READ MORE HERE
Follow links below to relevant/related stories and resources:

A former Broward Sheriff’s deputy is facing charges in COVID relief loan scheme

Help available for those who need to pay back rent owed during COVID-19 pandemic

USA TODAY: Coronavirus Updates

WSJ: Coronavirus Live Updates

YAHOO NEWS: Coronavirus Live Updates

NEW YORK POST: Coronavirus The Latest

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