Club bartender Samantha Lindbeck had a difficult time getting through the past year with occasional layoffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I think that was hard for a lot of people," she said.

Lindbeck, a mother of two, shared a little bit of her story at a press event at The Boat Club with U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar and Duluth Mayor Emily Larson on Sunday. Lindbeck said that business was starting to pick back up after the last shutdown from November to January, but that she was looking forward to receiving help from the American Rescue Plan, which President Joe Biden signed on Thursday. She said the increases in the Earned Income Tax Credit, part of the bill, will help restaurant workers like herself during the quieter parts of the year.

"People like me depend on that tax credit," Lindbeck said. "December is usually pretty busy for restaurants, then things go into a decline and that money from Christmas is gone and we're broke. So having some extra money coming in is going to be nice."

The tax credit increase wasn't the only aspect of the plan highlighted at the event. Klobuchar and Boat Club owner Jason Vincent also touched on how the plan will provide $28 million in grants to bars and restaurants to help keep their doors open.

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The Boat Club bartender and Duluth resident Samantha Lindbeck talks about her experiences working in the restaurant industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Teri Cadeau / tcadeau@duluthnews.com)
The Boat Club bartender and Duluth resident Samantha Lindbeck talks about her experiences working in the restaurant industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Teri Cadeau / tcadeau@duluthnews.com)

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"Nationally we’ve lost $135 billion in restaurant sales and 2.4 million lost restaurant jobs. And in Minnesota, 50,000 people have lost their jobs in restaurants," Klobuchar said. "We have done some things here including the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loan, which is a business loan program. But it really hasn’t reflected how hard this industry has been hit. That’s why we were so excited with this latest bill that we just passed."

Vincent said he was grateful for the one-time tax-free federal grant.

"Small-business owners like us have leveraged ourselves to the max. We've taken out all the loans that we can, we've put our lives and souls into our businesses and for many, that's just gone," Vincent said. "We're here today because of the help we received from the federal government and I don't know if we'd be here talking to you if we didn't have that help."

Vincent also credited locals who continued to patronize local businesses throughout the shutdowns for helping keep the Boat Club afloat.

Klobuchar also touched on how the bill will support vaccine distribution and called it "a light at the end of the tunnel."

Larson kept with theme of light through darkness and called the $60 million dollars coming to the city of Duluth from the bill's direct relief payments a "lighthouse moment."

"This bill helps us on the path to recovery," Larson said. "It's an extraordinary amount that's still not enough, and that's not a complaint. It's just saying that it's going to go fast and help us find a wholesome and holistic recovery."