This week, another bill that could help U.S. travel advisors and agency owners continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic was introduced and passed by the House of Representatives.
The bill, which is called Relief for Restaurants and other Hard Hit Small Business Act of 2022 (H.R. 3807), sets aside $13 billion for a new small business relief program across all industries. Though the bill is an industry-neutral approach to COVID-19 relief, it does offer financial relief for advisors and agency owners, groups that remain some of the hardest hit in the country.
Eben Peck, the vice president of advocacy for the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), applauded the bill’s passing.
“The travel industry was the first hit by the pandemic and will be one of the last to recover,” Peck said. “According to recent ASTA member surveys, the average travel agency revenue levels are still down 71 percent compared to 2019. In addition to advocating for dedicated support for travel agencies.”
“Given the severity and longevity of the financial losses suffered by travel advisors and other travel-reliant small businesses, passage of this legislation is imperative to getting these businesses back on their feet and contributing to our country’s economic recovery. While it will take several years for the travel agency industry to return to health, we believe this bill, coupled with modifying the CDC’s international air travel testing rule, will help speed this recovery and put travel agencies in a position to better serve the traveling public,” he added.
The funds are allocated in grants of up to $1 million for businesses with less than 200 employees who suffered a revenue loss of at least 40% in 2021 and 2021, on average, compared to 2019. That loss would be reduced by any Paycheck Protection Program or EIDL program grants. The bill also replenishes the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) with another $42 billion.
Grants from the program will be able to be used on payroll and IC payments, mortgage or rent, utilizes, and other expenses.
To be eligible, businesses would have to prove those losses and also show that they were ineligible for relief under the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) or the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program.
The bill will now head to the Senate, which is currently in the midst of considering its own version of relief. ASTA continues to push for “a similar industry-neutral approach instead of pursuing legislation where winners and losers are cherry-picked by Congress across the varying sectors affected by the pandemic.”
“Doing so leaves travel advisors (and many other sectors) by the wayside, and the traveling public without the assistance it needs to navigate ever-changing rules and restrictions,” Peck said.