HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The pandemic, followed by inflation, have brought challenging years for the restaurant industry. A new idea, however, may help turn things around.

The Connecticut Restaurant Association wants to take an existing state tax and create a hospitality fund.

The state’s 1% meal and beverage tax generated about $90 million last year. That money currently goes to the general fund.

Connecticut Restaurant Association President Scott Dulch said the tax could be a solution to the industry’s issues.

“Let’s use dollars that we are actually generating and reinvest it back in our industry,” Dulch said. “This is a long-term investment into hospitality, and it can hopefully have lasting effects.”

The Connecticut Hospitality Fund would distribute 50% to municipalities, 30% to the annual tourism fund and the remaining 20% towards workforce development.

The restaurant industry currently supports 138,000 jobs in Connecticut, which is down 20,000 pre-pandemic.

Tre Scalini in New Haven knows the problem all too well. The owner said money towards workforce development would make a huge impact.

“It’s extremely tough to find people these days,” Joe Maiorano, who owns Tre Scalini, said. “The workforce dollars are going to go towards training people, so sounds like it’s a good idea to try and grab some of those dollars. I think it will only help in the long run.”

But the issue run past staffing shortages.

It’s the rising costs in customer’s food and drinks, the staff who serve them and even the power to run grills and dishwashers.

“The price of everything is up somewhere between 50 to 100%,” Maiorano said.

A thousand restaurants in Connecticut have shut down since the pandemic started, but the Connecticut Restaurant Association said more closings will come in the next few months.

“It’s still very difficult for restaurants in Connecticut to survive,” Dulch said. “You’re seeing closures over the last couple months of landmarks locations.”

He said the Connecticut Hospitality Fund will help, but has a few obstacle to pass at the state level.

The Lamont administration sent News 8 a statement Friday, responding to the proposal saying, “Our administration is committed to continuing to support the industry. We will review this proposal as it makes its way through the legislative process.”