Washington DispatchAHLATaking Action: Grassroots Network Drives Early 2021 Wins for Hotel Industry

Taking Action: Grassroots Network Drives Early 2021 Wins for Hotel Industry

It’s been a busy first two months of the new Administration and Congress, with many of our top advocacy priorities seeing significant activity and advancements.

After the most challenging year in our industry’s history, your engagement has been crucial to telling our story in Washington, D.C., and moving the needle on key legislation. HotelsACT, our grassroots network, has grown to 55,000+ strong, with nearly 300,000 grassroots actions taken since the onset of the pandemic.

Your voice and your active engagement in advocating for your business, your employees, and our industry are truly making a difference. In just the last few weeks alone, and thanks to your ongoing support, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) has achieved several notable wins in our efforts to help the hotel industry survive the pandemic and put us on a path toward recovery.

Passing the American Rescue Plan

The monumental American Rescue Plan, passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden, contains many provisions AHLA has advocated for to help the hotel industry:

  • An additional $7.5 billion in funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
  • Additional funds to support the hardest-hit small businesses, including travel and tourism
  • $160 billion to fight the pandemic and vaccinate people so that travel can resume
  • An extension of the employee retention tax credit
  • State and local government funding set aside specifically to help COVID-19-impacted businesses, including hotels
  • State and local funding for economic development and promoting travel and tourism.
Extending the Paycheck Protection Program

Congress overwhelmingly approved the PPP Extension Act, which extends the program until May 31. AHLA joined 93 groups representing small business borrowers to express support for the bill. The program has helped many hotels stay afloat during the pandemic, but it was set to expire at the end of March with nearly $76 billion left unspent. Your advocacy through HotelsACT was critical in sending Congress the message that this valuable program should not expire.

Increased Limits for Key COVID-19 Loan Program

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced in March that it will increase the maximum amount small businesses and nonprofit organizations can borrow through its COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. AHLA has been vocal for more relief for the hotel industry and the need for SBA to make targeted improvements to existing programs. Starting the week of April 6, SBA will raise the COVID-19 EIDLE loan limit from six months of working capital up to $150,000 to 24 months of working capital up to $500,000. If you have one of these loans, be on the lookout for an email directly from SBA about how you can request an increase. Any new loan applications and those in process when the new limits are implemented will automatically be considered for the increased amount.

Advancing Fair Federal Per Diem Rates

AHLA has been working closely with key members of Congress for many months to ensure future per diem rates reestablished by the government reflect the current public health and economic crisis.

Government travel is incredibly important to the hotel industry, supporting tens of thousands of jobs and billions in travel spending that benefits communities across the country. Government per diem rates are often used by other businesses and organizations in setting their own travel standards.

In an important advancement on this front, U.S. Representatives Bill Posey (R-Fla.) and Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) recently introduced the Restored, Equitable, Coronavirus Adjusted Lodging (RECAL) Act. The bill would require the General Services Administration to set a floor for FY22 and FY23 federal per diem rates at those established for FY20. With a new fiscal year beginning October 1, and at a time when our industry is fighting for survival, AHLA is advocating for Congress to swiftly pass this legislation.

What’s Next

While we have accomplished a lot in the past two months, there is still more to be done. AHLA will continue working with Congress and the Biden Administration on policies that will provide relief for hotels, bring back travel, and support jobs and economic development.

At the top of our list is targeted economic relief for those properties and employees that have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hotels are a cornerstone of our communities and an economic engine – for every 10 people hotels employ directly on property, we support an additional 26 jobs elsewhere in the community, from construction to retail and restaurants. Saving hotels and hotel jobs will have a positive ripple effect throughout our economy.

Unfortunately, many hotels and their employees have been shut out of financial assistance programs – such as the PPP and the Main Street Lending Program – because of their ownership structure or their number of employees. That’s why AHLA is advocating for legislation that would provide a hotel industry grant program to helps hotels stay afloat, retain their employees, and jumpstart their recovery.

We urge each of you to stay engaged. Please visit www.ahla.com/hotelsact to join our HotelsACT grassroots network, easily connect with your elected officials, and help us affect change. HotelsACT is free and open to anyone connected to the hotel industry. Together, we can continue moving our industry forward and down the road to recovery.

Brian Crawford
Brian Crawford
Brian Crawford is the executive vice president of government affairs at AHLA.