The just-passed $1.9 trillion stimulus bill goes far to help the travel industry move forward, but there’s still a lack of acknowledgement and support for the meetings segment.
The stimulus bill, known as the American Rescue Plan, is a game changer as far as small business relief, support for the millions of unemployed members of the industry and funding for vaccine distribution—but, say some industry leaders, does not recognize meetings as an entity vs. “large gatherings,” or acknowledge the initiatives taken thus far to make them safe.
The bill was a focus of the Meetings Mean Business board meeting this week in Tampa. In a LinkedIn post, David DuBois, CAE, CMP, FASAE, CTA, a board member and president of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE), said the group was focused on “trying to get the CDC to understand and support the difference between our ability to host safe and healthy exhibitions and conferences that are very different than ‘mass gatherings.’ We’re also focusing on educating corporate executives and government officials about the very successful safety and health guidelines/considerations/best practices that our industry has developed and are executing successfully.”
On a positive note, U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow issued the following statement in support of the stimulus bill, which has passed both the Senate and the House and is expected to be signed by President Biden this week: “President Biden’s plan lays out much-needed relief that can’t come soon enough, and we’re encouraged by the momentum in Congress to advance this crucial package. Accelerating the distribution of vaccines is the key to restarting travel and jumpstarting the broader American economy, and we are highly supportive of the robust federal leadership role to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible.
“We are also very encouraged by the measures to provide additional grants and loans to small businesses in the hardest-hit industries, which include travel,” he added. “The Paycheck Protection Program is set to expire at the end of the month, but the economic pain of the pandemic will linger far beyond that point. Extending the program’s application deadline until December 31 and allowing for a third draw on loans will be vital to ensuring struggling travel industry businesses can maintain operations and keep workers on payrolls.”
The travel industry lost millions of jobs last year, accounting for nearly 40% of all jobs lost from the COVID-19 pandemic.