Congressional Relief



March 27, 2020

Guide BooksIt might be a scene from a science fiction novel, but the closed businesses, empty schools, quiet airports and silent restaurants are all too real.  It is already cliché to state that the devastation wrought by the coronavirus is unprecedented.  Now, that word seems insufficient.

The Chamber is dealing with this disaster in many ways. We put together an online list of restaurants offering pickup and curbside service along with a list of other local businesses that are still open or providing virtual services. We are keeping the traveling public updated through many modes of communication including live chat and SMS texting.  We have met with our Congressman O’Halleran and regional health officials, gathering and sharing information to help them make the best decisions.  We are connecting businesses and their employees with emergency loan and unemployment assistance so they can get help quickly.

We are also part of a national movement led by the US Travel Association asking Congress to provide hundreds of billions of dollars in relief directly to people working in tourism and travel, one of America’s largest economic sectors and by far Sedona’s most important industry.

The situation is grave.  The USTA estimates 4.6 million Americans – 50 percent of the travel industry’s workforce – could lose their jobs by the end of April.  Those job losses alone could take national unemployment to 6.3 percent.  In Sedona, we know tourism generates 10,000 jobs and over $1 billion in annual economic activity, as well as 77 percent of city of Sedona sales tax revenues.

We are calling on Washington to take immediate action as follows:

Travel Workforce Stabilization Fund:  Establish a $250 billion fund to keep workers on the job and provide compensation for losses incurred. The Fund should provide immediate assistance through two programs:

Travel Employment Grants:  $150 billion in grants to travel-dependent businesses to maintain employment at pre-coronavirus levels and meet obligations like rent, utilities and debt payments.

Travel Business Stabilization:  $100 billion to provide unsecured loans, loan guarantees, and lines of credit to businesses suffering severe financial distress as a result of COVID-19. Just as important, we urge Congress to enter into contracts for bulk purchases of lodging, airfare, event and meeting space, and travel-related services over the next 10 years.

We applaud Congress and President Trump for working together to add funds and expedite processing of SBA emergency loans. We urge that a portion of these loans be converted to grants to help small businesses keep people on the job. We ask the federal government to raise the maximum loan amount to $10 million, provide 100 percent federal guarantees and allow businesses to forego loan payments and interest accrual through 2020.

We believe tax relief is urgent. Among other items, we are asking that affected businesses be permitted to defer tax liability and that the government delay or eliminate estimated quarterly tax payments and filings deadlines.

Time is of the essence. Congress needs to take immediate action to protect workers in Sedona and across the country who, through no fault of their own, are experiencing severe economic harm from this disaster.

For the Chamber, coordinating information and helping Sedona employers and workers get the assistance they need as quickly as possible is a top priority.

                                                          –Jennifer Wesselhoff, President/CEO