ASTA on Tuesday gave an update for its priorities for the next round of COVID-19 stimulus that could possibly come through Congress.
Congress still has not confirmed that it is looking at passing a fourth round of stimulus and White House officials said this past weekend that they are not actively seeking a stimulus funding, but ASTA is still making its priorities known for when the times comes.
In a notice released on Tuesday, ASTA said the current CARES Act programs, which did provide some relief to its members, “is unlikely to be sufficient given that travel was the first industry impacted and is likely to be one of the last to fully recover from the crisis.”
According to an ASTA survey, taken of its members between May 1 and 8, 64.8% of its members have applied for a PPP loan and 56.2% have been approved for a loan. Those who haven’t been approved found the process difficult, including finding a financial institution that was willing to take their application.
More than 60% applied for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), with only 25.9% approved, and more than 75% had applied for unemployment benefits, with 33.4% approved.
While the programs were important steps, to continue to help keep its advisor members afloat during the COVID-19 crisis, ASTA is pushing Congress for the following:
“Ticket Agents” be added to Section 4112
ASTA is hoping that Section 4112 of the CARES Act, which allows the Treasury to give payments to air carriers and certain contractors, be amended to include “ticket agents” and that funding be boosted to $7.7 billion.
That would give advisors funds to use for payroll supports ($7.7 billion is the total projected 2020 travel agency revenue loss, according to an ASTA survey).
“While a portion of our membership has been able to access relief under several of the CARES Act’s programs, this relief is unlikely to be sufficient given that travel was the first industry impacted,” ASTA wrote.
Expansion of PPP
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) in the CARES Act was the centerpiece that was thought to be the savior for a lot of small businesses. However, according to ASTA, “shortcomings associated with the PPP’s rollout and implementation suggest the need for improvements” including an increase in funding to $900 billion, an extension through the end of 2020, an increase in maximum threshold from 250% of monthly payroll to 400% of all business expenses, and an increase in the loan forgiveness provisions from 8 weeks to 12 weeks.
ASTA is also requesting that the PPP loan terms move from two years to at least five years, that the non-payroll forgiveness cap goes from 25% to 50%, and that the employee cap be pushed to 2,000. ASTA also said that the PPP needs to be clarified to answer whether or not ICs may be include in the payroll for determining the PPP loan amount.
Additional funding for ticket agent loans
The $25 billion from the Treasury Department that was earmarked to go to airlines, aircraft repair stations, and “ticket agents,” the statutory term for advisors, should be increased and the loan extended to 10 years to accommodate “the travel industry’s long anticipated recovery.”
ASTA still expects most of its members to get relief elsewhere within the CARES Act.