Congress keeps government open while COVID-19 relief languishes

AAHOA president says process is ‘moving at the speed of government’

Cecil Staton, AAHOA president and CEO, said in reply to news that the U.S. Senate had passed a just a one-week stopgap funding bill that Congress now must move faster to approve the next round of COVID-19 relief.

CONGRESS MANAGED TO keep the federal government’s doors open for another week on Friday, but it was a struggle. That difficulty in agreeing on just a one-week stopgap funding bill did not bode well for efforts to approve a new round of COVID-19 relief so badly needed by the hospitality industry.

That fact did not sit well with Cecil Staton, AAHOA president and CEO, who released a statement chiding lawmakers to get to approve more funding for businesses and individuals fighting to keep their heads above water.

“While Washington waits until the last minute to get its house in order with a stopgap measure good for just one week, the American people and American enterprise continue to suffer. From battling the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic calamity to mending the political divisions of the recent elections, our nation faces numerous challenges,” Staton said. “The fact that our elected leaders came within a hair’s breadth of allowing a government shutdown during these most difficult of times is yet another sad reminder of how political gridlock is prolonging the misery of this pandemic. There exists no better example of something ‘moving at the speed of government’ than the bewilderingly lackadaisical pace at which Washington politicians are approaching the financial crisis gripping the nation’s small businesses.”

Extending and expanding programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program that provides loans to small businesses can prevent further closings and layoffs, he said.

“Without a new stimulus package that addresses the realities facing thousands of employers and millions of workers across America, the carnage of American small businesses will lay squarely at Washington’s feet,” Staton said.

More debate also is expected at the end of the week when the stopgap spending bill must be renewed, according to NPR. Former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders paved the way for the passage of the bill by withdrawing his insistence that the Senate first vote on payments to Americans affected by the pandemic, but he also said he planned to renew the issue next week.

“I am not one of the members of the Senate who shuts down, does this or does that and keeps people for weekends, I don’t do that,” Sanders said on the Senate floor ahead of the voice vote. “I am prepared to withdraw my objection at this moment, but I will not be prepared to withdraw an objection next week. We will deal with the financial crisis facing tens of millions of Americans.”

AAHOA, the U.S. Travel Association and the American Hotel & Lodging Association have urged the passage of a bipartisan bill that would include $908 billion in total aid. The proposal also would include $300 billion for the PPP according to the caucus’ most recent breakdown, a key objective of USTA, AHLA and AAHOA. It also includes $160 billion for state and local governments, $180 billion for unemployment benefits and $16 billion for vaccine development and distribution and COVID-19 testing.