USTA welcomes passage of COVID-19 relief before Christmas

Negotiations continue in Congress for more than $900 billion bill

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Congress must pass a new COVID-19 relief before Christmas to keep hotels and other businesses open into 2021, according to a statement from the U.S. Travel Association. Sunday evening lawmakers announced they had an agreement on the bill and are expected to vote on it Monday.

AFTER WEEKS OF negotiation, Congress has agreed on the next round of COVID-19 economic relief. The economic stimulus package was needed before Christmas, according to the U.S. Travel Association, and the association called the agreement “a huge holiday gift to U.S. businesses and workers.”

The most recent hang up to the passage of the new bill that could over more than $900 billion in aid is the insertion of a provision by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, to end certain emergency powers for the Federal Reserve that were due to expire at the end of the year, according to USA Today.  However, a compromise was found and Monday night Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced the agreement.

“These new emergency lending facilities were always intended to sunset at the end of this year. Sen. Toomey and our Democratic colleagues have landed on compromise language that ensures this will happen; redirects the dormant money in these accounts toward the urgent needs of working Americans; and ensures that these expiring programs cannot be simply restarted or cloned without another authorization from Congress,” McConnell said in his speech. “All while preserving both the independence of the Federal Reserve and the proper authority of Congress.”

The new bill will include $325 billion in this legislation for small business, Pelosi said during a press conference with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. Pelosi said she would have liked to have another $325 billion for state and local governments as well, but both Democrats said Congress would come back in January to fill in the gaps in the bill.

“Now, while this bill is far from perfect, nor is it the bill that we would pass if Democrats had a Majority in the Senate, it is a strong shot in the arm to help American families weather the storm,” Pelosi said. “For the 20 million people who would lose unemployment benefits the day after Christmas, help is on the way.  To the millions of small business owners who are worried their businesses would go under, help is on the way.  To families struggling with less money, direct payments mean help is on the way.  To people who might have been evicted from their homes because they didn’t have a job and couldn’t afford it, help is on the way.  To those who need food because they have no money because of the pandemic, help is on the way.  And to all of America who wants to make sure that the vaccine is distributed free and fairly and quickly, help is on the way.”

The bill was welcomed by Roger Dow, USTA president and CEO, who issued a statement Sunday night as well.

“It’s been a difficult road to get another round of much-needed legislative relief moving in Washington. We applaud the bipartisan group of senators that drove progress forward, and the congressional leadership for striking a bipartisan agreement to produce this desperately needed assistance. The agreed-upon provisions will give many suffering businesses a bridge to 2021,” Dow said. “More will be needed to restore the 4.5 million travel jobs lost in the travel and tourism industry, but the process that produced this agreement is hopefully a positive sign for what will be possible to achieve in the next Congress. We urge swift action on this important legislation.”

Tori Emerson Barnes, USTA’s executive vice president for public affairs and policy, was maintaining the pressure on Congress in a statement before the announcement  of the agreement.

“It is crucial that Congress stay laser-focused on getting a measure across the finish line this year, and that it includes an expansion of the Paycheck Protection Program to include eligibility for non-profit destination marketing organizations and a second draw of funds for the hardest-hit industries,” she said. “Whatever relief passed by Congress before Christmas is imperative to help many businesses stay open until 2021.”

Congress is expected to vote on the relief bill on Monday.

USTA has been pressing for the passage of the new relief bill for weeks now, along with other associations including the American Hotel & Lodging Association and AAHOA.

Editor’s note: This story was updated with new information Sunday after its original publication.