Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Travel and its verticals—including chauffeured ground transportation and tour/charter work—has been among the hardest hit industries during the pandemic, and a sector that will have a slower recovery. As Congress debates the next COVID-19 relief package, many bills have been proposed that would offer grants and loans to help those sectors as the world emerges from the global crisis.

Congress Covid

Recognizing the importance of local tourism and its impact on a state and region’s economy, several senators introduced the Sustaining Tourism Enterprises During the COVID–19 Pandemic (STEP) Act, which would modify existing Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant programs to provide direct support to the hard-hit tourism and travel industry to promote a safe economic recovery and help increase public confidence. The bipartisan bill, S.4299, was sponsored by Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and now has the support of Senators Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

As currently proposed, the bill would authorize $10 billion in grants to tourism and event entities impacted by the pandemic, which would include states, nonprofits, and private businesses. The bill would indirectly benefit the industry by helping the venues and organizations that many work with to provide transportation for conventions, trade shows, large-scale meetings, and other tourism-related activities. The full text of the bill is available here.

Congress Covid Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.)

“Nevada’s world-class tourism economy—and the families it supports—have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic,” said Senator Cortez Masto on a press release on her website.When hotels, restaurants, and event venues across the state welcome visitors, the public and employees alike need reassurance that travel and events are safe.”

“The travel and tourism industry is a critical part of our state’s economy and one that’s been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic,” added Senator Blunt. “This bill will help tourism-related businesses, and the hundreds of thousands of jobs they support, get back to full speed as quickly and safely as possible.”

The bill also has the support of the U.S. Travel Association, one of the largest organizations dedicated to promoting and protecting travel within the U.S.

“Getting the U.S. travel economy restarted is going to be particularly important, but it is also going to be particularly challenging,” said the association’s Executive VP for Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes. “The only way travel jobs will be restored in a timely fashion is if businesses are able to survive until the point when travel is able to fully and safely resume and consumer demand picks up, and the STEP Act would be a major boon to those efforts.”

Advocacy has never been more important to our survival. With Congress stalled on critical legislation and much-needed aid, the association has created a toolkit to make it easy to reach out to your representatives and let your voice be heard. The toolkit is available here.

Other bills that are being considered currently are the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) Act—which has been proposed in both the House and Senate (H.R. 7642 and S.4150, respectively)—as well as the Reviving the Economy Sustainably Towards a Recovery in 2020 (RESTART) Act (S.3814) and the Continuing Small Business Recovery and Paycheck Protection Program Act (S.4321).

[08.06.20]