Crucial Week for $1.9 trillion US Coronavirus Relief Package

By Jack Johnson, Destinations International

The US House of Representatives is on track to pass US President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package by the end of this week as the United States Congress sprints to deliver aid to millions of Americans reeling from the pandemic and facing a jobless benefits cliff in mid-March. The Democrats do not expect to receive any Republican votes for the package so they seeking to pass the bill using a procedural maneuver known as reconciliation. Using this route will allow passage in the Senate without the threat of a filibuster.

The House Budget Committee will meet on Monday of this week to tee up the legislation for floor passage on Friday or Saturday of this week.  A Senate vote could happen as soon as next week.

The following are key elements that have an impact on destination organizations.

More money for small businesses and the Paycheck Protection Program

The bill would provide $15 billion to the Emergency Injury Disaster Loan program, which provides long-term, low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration. Severely impacted small businesses with fewer than 10 workers will be given priority for some of the money.

It also provides $25 billion for a new grant program specifically for bars and restaurants. Eligible businesses may receive up to $10 million and can use the money for a variety of expenses, including payroll, mortgage and rent, utilities and food and beverages.

The Paycheck Protection Program, which is currently taking applications for second-round loans, would get an additional $7 billion and the bill would make more non-profit organizations eligible.

Another $175 million would be used for outreach and promotion, creating a Community Navigator Program to help target eligible businesses.

Whether it is PPP support for destination organizations or help for the small businesses in our community, the continued flowing of money through these programs are key.

Aid to states and local governments

The legislation would provide $350 billion to state and local governments, as well as tribes and territories. States and the District of Columbia would receive $195.3 billion, while local governments would be sent $130.2 billion to be divided evenly between cities and counties. Tribes would get $20 billion and territories $4.5 billion.

While this is a very partisan issue within the US Congress with Republicans opposing it and Democrats supporting it, it has strong a bi-partisan support among governors, state legislators and mayors. For destination organizations, it should lessen the potential for efforts to divert their funding and/or raise hospitality taxes in order to prop up the general funds.

Vaccines and testing

The legislation provides $14 billion to research, develop, distribute, administer, and strengthen confidence in vaccines. It would also put $46 billion towards testing, contact tracing and mitigation, including investing in laboratory capacity, community-based testing sites and mobile testing units, particularly in medically underserved areas. It would also allocate $7.6 billion to hire 100,000 public health workers to support coronavirus response.

Given the importance of getting a majority of the US population vaccinated, particularly those at most risk, in order to see the return of leisure, sports and meetings travel, this infusion should speed the process up.

About the Author

Jack Johnson headshot
Jack Johnson
Chief Advocacy Officer
Destinations International
Jack manages the overall public policy operations at Destinations International including member advocacy education and training, development of destination tools and best practices, coalition work with peer organizations, industry research and related public affairs activities. Currently, his work around positioning destination organizations as a shared value in each of their communities and speaking with a new lexicon based on the emotion-driven by those values has made him one of the leading voices of the travel industry.