Travel Trade Orgs: American Rescue Plan Provides Some Support, But Needs Remain

Man signing law
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On Saturday, the United States Senate passed President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan by a party-line vote of 50-49, The New York Times reported. Passage of the bill came after the Senate remained in session for more than 24 hours of votes.

The bill contains many provisions that travel industry groups have advocated for to help put the industry on a path toward recovery, including:

  • An additional $15 billion to support the hardest hit small businesses, including travel and tourism
  • $7.5 billion in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding
  • $160 billion to fight the pandemic and vaccinate individuals so travel can resume
  • An extension of the employee retention tax credit

The legislation also included language directing state and local governments receiving funding to use a portion of that funding to help COVID-19 impacted businesses, such as hotels. It also includes additional money for the Economic Development Administration to promote travel and tourism.

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“ASTA welcomes the provisions of the American Rescue Plan Act that will support travel-reliant businesses and the industry as whole recover from the COVID-19 crisis, several of which we have been advocating nonstop since the beginning of the year,” said Zane Kerby, president and CEO of the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA).

In another statement, the American Hotel & Lodging Association applauded the Senate for passing the legislation, calling it a “critical step forward in protecting jobs and helping small businesses stay open.”

AHLA leaders expect to monitor how this funding gets disbursed and what impact it will have on hotels. According to the group, this legislation does not include industry-specific relief and the AHLA continues to call on Congress to immediately implement additional long-term grant programs for industries and workers that have been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that thousands of mid- to large-sized businesses in the hospitality sector do not qualify for PPP and have received no relief during the pandemic.

Just the same, ASTA’s Kerby said, “While the American Rescue Plan Act provides some support, it is clear that more is needed for our industry … At minimum, the Paycheck Protection Program must be extended and targeted toward the hardest-hit industries and the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program must be broadened to include travel agencies.”

Ahead of the weekend passage, other industry groups urged Congress to approve the bill, highlighting measures that would support hospitality and travel businesses. “The American Rescue Plan not only supports hoteliers and their employees with much-needed economic assistance, it also lays the groundwork for a quicker recovery,” said 

 president and CEO Cecil P. Staton. “The additional funding for [the] Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loan grants through [the Small Business Administration] and grants for destination marketing organizations are critical measures that help the hospitality industry right now as we work towards recovery. America’s hotels need people to start traveling again for a true recovery to begin. ARP includes billions for increased testing and a rapidly expanded vaccine rollout, which will bolster consumer confidence about the safety of resuming some pre-pandemic activities such as leisure and business travel. America’s hoteliers appreciate the Biden administration’s spearheading this stimulus package and their efforts to initiate a speedy recovery.”

Said U.S. Travel Association president Roger Dow: “The Paycheck Protection Program is set to expire at the end of the month, but the economic pain of the pandemic will linger far beyond that point. Extending the program’s application deadline until Dec. 31 and allowing for a third draw on loans will be vital to ensuring struggling travel industry businesses can maintain operations and keep workers on payrolls.

“The travel industry lost millions of jobs last year, accounting for nearly 40 percent of all jobs lost. A broader American economic recovery is contingent on a robust recovery within the travel industry, which is why we will continue to need substantial relief for travel industry businesses.

“U.S. Travel is grateful to Congress and the administration for their focus on combatting the virus and providing relief to America’s hardest-hit industries.”

This legislation now moves back to the U.S. House of Representatives, which will take it up on March 9.

This article originally appeared on www.travelagentcentral.com.

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