“The impact to our industry is already more severe than anything we’ve seen before, including September 11 and the great recession of 2008 combined,” American Hotel & Lodging Association CEO Chip Rogers.
And we are not alone. Each and every industry in the nation is suffering at the hands of this unprecedented global pandemic that is evolving at an alarming rate. Experts say that COVID-19 could eliminate 4.6 million tourism related jobs and approximately 1 million, or 45%, of direct hotel jobs have been or will be eliminated in the next few weeks. A call to action has never been more imperative.
As a result the U.S. travel and tourism industry is seeking $150 billion in emergency relief funds to help hotels and the millions of soon to be unemployed workers stay afloat in these trying times. Over the past 3 days the industry’s top leaders have met with the White House to discuss the devastating impact the pandemic has had on not only the tourism industry but also the nation as a whole and what, if any, measures can be taken to stabilize the crisis.
Currently the US government is rolling out financial aid in stages. The second phase, called the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, was approved on March 18th and includes free testing, paid sick leave and enhanced unemployment benefits for qualified workers. The good news is that this coverage applies to most workers at small and midsize companies just like yours. Employees who have been employed for at least 30 days, are ill, quarantined or caring for someone who is sick can apply for 2 weeks of paid leave. And for those with children who cannot work for lack of childcare can apply for up to 12 weeks of paid leave.
As an employer you have the option to either lay off employees so they can receive unemployment benefits or they can be furloughed, they remain on the payroll but do not receive a cheque. The benefit to furloughed employees is two fold.First, employers are able to retain their employees so that when the crisis is over they can return to work immediately. Secondly, employees may have access to company benefits that they may not have if they are laid off. If and when a bailout package is issued, it will be much easier to rebuild your business if your employees are already in the system and ready to return to work.
What does this mean for you financially? The US government has said it will reimburse employers, dollar for dollar in the form of a payroll tax credit within 3 months to cover the cost of paid leave for their employees. In addition to payroll support, the package also includes disaster loan assistance, low interest loans to help cover basic operating costs. More information on how to apply can be found here. On Thursday’s episode of No Vacancy with Glenn Haussman, AAHOA CEO Cecil Stanton stressed that getting capital into the hands of small business owners as quickly and seamlessly as possible is what will get them through to the other side when the nation begins to travel once more.
But time is of the essence and how can we make that happen before it’s too late? Advocate! Along with major industry leaders, it’s time to advocate like you have never advocated before. Email your state representatives, they need to hear your story- let them know how this crisis has impacted your business. We are seeing great lengths of advocacy on a larger scale. On March 18th, the Vegas Chamber, a Nevada organization that advocates for the state’s businesses, sent a letter to Congressional leaders and Nevada Senators requesting financial assistance for the gaming and tourism industry. And in a letter to Senate and House leadership, South Carolina Congressman Tom Rice asked the federal government to provide ‘no less than $100 billion for the tourist and travel sectors of the economy.’
Your voice is imperative and needs to be heard! Click here for more information on how you can contribute. Call your local congressman, email your state Senator and share your story. It’s time to pull together as a community, as an industry and as a nation. American hospitality professionals are a strong and resilient conglomerate. We will get through this crisis together!