WASHINGTON —The U.S. Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow has offered praise for the Coronavirus relief package known as the CARES Act, which includes significant priorities championed by the travel industry.
Dow, however, cautions there’s still work to be done to protect the entirety of the 15.8 million American jobs supported by travel.
“With this bi-partisan deal, Washington is providing a vital lifeline to protect millions of travel workers and help businesses of all sizes keep their lights on through the worst of the health crisis,” Dow says.
“No legislative package was ever going to erase 100-per-cent of the pain from the economic catastrophe being caused by Coronavirus, but this deal gives the travel economy a fighting chance to weather the eye of the storm and prepare to quickly lead the recovery.
“Our industry stayed together and presented hard facts to make the case for massive and urgent relief, and our political leaders heard us. However, the true scale of this crisis, and the economic damage created by this public-health disaster, will extend beyond the scope of this historic bill. It’s sad, but it’s true, more help will be needed soon.”
The following is a summary of the travel-relevant provisions in the bill and how they compare with U.S. Travel’s recommendations:
• US$377 billion in loans and loan forgiveness for small travel businesses: The bill provides small travel businesses (500 employees or less), self-employed individuals, and 501(c)(3) non-profits with enhanced and expedited Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, which will be made available quickly through community banks. Loan recipients can receive tax-free forgiveness on a portion of the loan, equal to eight weeks of payroll and other expenses.
o U.S. Travel advocated for at least US$300 billion in enhanced SBA loans, with increased loan limits, broader eligibility, no collateral requirements and loan forgiveness, all of which were included in the CARES Act.
• US$454 billion in federally backed financial assistance for impacted businesses: The bill provides US$454 billion through the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve to assist impacted travel businesses and governmental entities through secured loans, loan guarantees and other financial measures. The broad eligibility under this program ensures any impacted organizations can access a liquidity lifeline to keep workers employed and stay afloat through the worst months of this crisis.
o U.S. Travel’s platform called for a US$250 billion Travel Workforce Stabilization Fund through the Treasury Department to provide grants (US$150 billion) and loans (US $100 billion) for impacted travel-dependent businesses. U.S. Travel advocated to increase the aggregate loan amount and eligibility of the loan fund in the CARES Act.
• Tax relief to mitigate losses and allow businesses to use cash to pay employees and keep the lights on: The bill allows affected businesses to temporarily defer tax liability, access an Employee Retention Tax Credit, delay or eliminate estimated quarterly tax payments and filings deadlines and allow for a carryback of the Net Operating Loss (NOL) Deduction.
o U.S. Travel’s platform included these tax proposals and advocated for them to be included in the bill.
• Grants for impacted tourism businesses and airports: The bill provides US$10 billion in airport grants to support vital operations and provides US$6.5 billion in Community Development and Economic Development Administration grants for economic injuries caused by COVID-19, including the tourism industry.
o U.S. Travel advocated for US$10 billion in airport grants and more than US$1 billion in Community Development grants to support impacted tourism businesses.
“Travel businesses — 83 per cent of which are small businesses — help supply 15.8 million U.S. jobs, almost six million of which could disappear in the next five weeks,” says Dow.