Congress Reaches $900B COVID Relief Deal

WASHINGTON—Congressional leaders reached a deal on Sunday for a $900 billion COVID relief package that includes funds for businesses hit hard by the pandemic. The House and Senate are expected to vote on the package today.

Hospitality industry leaders praised the deal.

“On behalf of the hotel industry, we applaud the House and Senate leadership, along with the Administration, for reaching a bipartisan compromise on this COVID economic relief package,” said Chip Rogers, president/CEO,  American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA). “This short-term relief package is a vital step toward helping the hotel industry survive this crisis. The proposed measure provides temporary relief over the next few months and will help thousands of hotels stay open and retain employees.

“For months, the hotel industry has been imploring lawmakers to help the people and industries that have been most affected by this crisis,” he added. “After more than 250,000 individual grassroots actions taken by AHLA members, we are pleased to finally see a long-overdue agreement.”

“The lodging industry has been devastated by the effects of this pandemic, and the livelihoods for so many hoteliers and hotel employees is in peril,” said Cecil P. Staton, president/CEO, AAHOA. “I am very pleased to see that their pleas have been heard by Congress today. As the hardest hit industry, hospitality needed another lifeline to survive for the next few months until additional capital relief is available. We are grateful to our leaders for coming together for the good of the country.”

The package includes a second round of PPP funding and other benefits that will help the hospitality industry. “The legislation contains many of the provisions AHLA has advocated for, including a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans, increasing the size of PPP loans to 3.5 times payroll and making PPP loan expenses tax-deductible,” said Rogers. “This will provide a critical lifeline for hotels and other businesses that have been decimated by the pandemic. Other hotel industry priorities include a one-year extension for Troubled Debt Restructuring (TDR) relief so that banks can continue working with borrowers to gain additional forbearance and debt relief, business meal deductibility through 2022, and expanded Employee Retention Tax Credit.”

Staton said, “AAHOA members and our partners across lodging, banking and small business, rallied together to fight for a year-long extension for troubled debt restructuring (TDR) classification and after much debate, our priority was included in the final proposal. The legislation also includes more funding for Small Business Administration programs including 504, 7(a), and Economic Disaster Loans (EIDL). We are grateful for these inclusions because they are literally the difference between remaining open and going into foreclosure for countless hotel owners. I am proud that the tens of thousands of letters sent by AAHOA members over the past few weeks and months have resonated with our public officials.”

Roger Dow, president/CEO, U.S. Travel Association, welcomes the relief. “Washington is delivering a huge holiday gift to U.S. businesses and workers after an incredibly challenging year,” he said. “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.”

While this relief is welcome, leaders believe that it is just the beginning. “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,” said Dow. “We urge swift action on this important legislation.”

Staton agreed, “In these most challenging times for hotels in our nation’s history, we appreciate the bipartisanship displayed by congressional leadership and members across the country. We welcome this spirit to continue into the new year. Today is a big step in the right direction to helping in the survival of the lodging industry. We look forward to continuing this engagement to ensure our voices continued to be heard.”

“We look forward to working with Congress and the new Administration on a longer-term stimulus package that will ensure our industry survives and is well positioned to help the country recover economically once the public health threat subsides,” added Rogers.