Congress reaches deal on COVID-19 relief funding

Hotel industry associations pushed for political unity to avoid economic disaster

On Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act after saying the Republican’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, & Economic Security Act does not do enough for workers.

ANOTHER DAY PASSED without Congress approving relief funding to help hotels and other small businesses weather the economic storm from the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, after midnight, a deal was struck.

A vote on the motion to proceed on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, & Economic Security Act in the Senate failed by a vote of 49-46, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association.

“House and Senate Leadership continue to negotiate,” AHLA said.

Those negotiations finally seemed to bear fruit with an announcement of a deal early Wednesday morning, according to CNN. Few details of the deal were known when this article went to print.

“Ladies and gentleman, we are done,” White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland said just before 1 a.m. ET, according to CNN. “We have a deal.”

AHLA members have sent more than 74,000 letters to Congress supporting the act.

The $2 trillion CARES Act would provide Small Business Administration loans and other assistance hotels need to stay open as occupancy plummets, said Cecil Staton, AAHOA’s president and CEO, in a statement.

“America’s small businesses and their employees are running out of time while Washington insiders play politics with their futures. Congress needs to come together and deliver critical financial assistance to the industries and workers hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Staton said. “As the negotiations continue, we urge Congress and the Trump administration to include real economic relief for small business owners and address the liquidity crisis facing thousands of hotel owners across the country.”

Staton had also said in a previous statement that the maximum set for the loans needed to be expanded to four times the annual average monthly operating expenses, with a cap of $10 million.

Democrats in Congress have held up the bill out of concern that it would not do enough to ensure that companies use the money to keep workers on the job.

“The Senate Republicans’ bill, as presented, put corporations first, not workers and families,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said before unveiling the House’s own version of the stimulus, the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act.

The Democrats’ bill would require that any corporation that receives taxpayer money from the stimulus use it to pay wages and benefits, not stock buybacks or salaries for CEOs. It would also shore up Unemployment Insurance to help cover workers who lose their jobs.

The bill also includes more funding for healthcare workers and hospitals to purchase personal protective equipment and calls on President Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act to increase production of the equipment. However, Republicans said the bill also contains extraneous expenses for Democratic causes like the Green New Deal.