In March, President Joe Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan (ARP), a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill designed to speed the nation’s economic recovery in the wake of COVID-19.
The legislation included $195.3 billion in Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) for state governments to address the fiscal impacts of the pandemic at the state and local level. Yet more than six months after the legislation became law, much of this money remains unspent, as less than half of states have allocated their SLFRF funding.
The ARP stipulates that a portion of the SLFRF funds must be devoted to hospitality relief efforts, but it is not specific as to how states should meet that goal—meaning it’s up to governors, state legislatures, and local officials to determine how these funds should be allocated.
As the voice of the lodging industry, the American Hotel & Lodging Association is working to harness the voices of lodging professionals across the nation to ensure this significant pool of federal COVID relief funds goes to the hospitality professionals who need it most.
Two early success stories in Virginia and Arizona are guiding our efforts. In both cases, state and local hospitality leaders’ proactive approach to securing SLFRF funding paid off.
- In Virginia, thanks to the collective efforts of the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association (VRLTA) and a coalition of more than 800 business groups, Governor Ralph Northam signed a budget that includes $250 million for the Rebuild VA COVID-19 Business Relief Grant program. The funds will be used to finance Rebuild VA applications in the pipeline and will prioritize tourism and hospitality businesses including lodging, restaurants, and public entertainment and amusement venues. Additionally, $50 million will be allocated to the Virginia Tourism Corporation and local tourism authorities to promote an increase in travel to the Commonwealth and its localities.
- In Arizona, with the support of the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association, Governor Doug Ducey announced $101 million in federal funding to launch the Visit Arizona Initiative, a grant program designed to increase visitation and tourism spending in Arizona, bolster job creation, and accelerate economic recovery.
Using these key victories as a roadmap, AHLA is working collaboratively with other state association members to replicate what was achieved in Virginia and Arizona.
AHLA has created a model plan for how state officials can allocate SLFRF funds. The plan covers everything from workforce development and training to property tax relief and travel tax credits, and it can be customized to meet the needs of individual states to ensure local hospitality and tourism recovers as quickly as possible.
Additionally, we are mobilizing our grassroots network to share stories with local lawmakers to ensure the hospitality and tourism industries in each state get their fair share of SLFRF funds, just as Congress intended.
Tourism and hospitality are critical components of the U.S. economy, and state and local lawmakers across the country have a chance to make a real difference in the lives of the men and women who power our industry. It is our job to ensure lawmakers have the tools and information needed to make the right decisions.
We’ll continue working collaboratively with our state association members, state and local lawmakers, and each of you to ensure hotel employees and small businesses get the ARP support they need, and our industry continues moving forward.