On Sunday night, leadership in both Congress and the White House came to an agreement on a new $900 billion coronavirus relief package that includes a second round of PPP, extension of the CARES unemployment programs, and individual stimulus checks for most Americans.
While an agreement was reached, final procedural votes on the deal are expected to come on Monday morning, with a full text of the package available shortly after.
The deal comes a little more than eight months since that passing of the CARES Act, and, according to the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), is a good first step in bridging its members into early 2021. However, “more support for our members beyond this bill will absolutely be needed," according to a statement from ASTA.
“That said, more support for our members beyond this bill will absolutely be needed. Thankfully, this package is widely considered a short-term ‘bridge’ into early 2021 and it is clear that the next Congress will take up additional relief legislation in the 1st quarter,” ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby said.
“Something is better than nothing, and we appreciate the breathing room this bill will afford the vast majority of our members. But the fight continues, and will until the travel agency sector is restored to health,” Kerby added.
The most impactful items for advisors, which ASTA has lobbied for since the passing of the CARES Act, include another round of small-business aid through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). According to ASTA, the bill includes $284 billion for a second round of forgivable loans, with simplified loan forgiveness for those borrowing $150,000 or less.
The deal also includes a deductibility of PPP loan proceeds, which would allow businesses to deduct expenses paid for with the proceeds of PPP loans from their 2020 taxes.
Outside of the PPP, the deal includes an extension of both the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) and the Extension of CARES Act Unemployment Programs. The ETRC is designed to help keep more workers on the payroll and more small businesses and nonprofits across the country afloat, while the unemployment extension, which expired from the CARES Act in July is expected to give an extra $300 a week to furloughed or laid-off employees and ICs (the CARES Act had given them $600 extra per week).
And, according to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, the bill includes broad support for airlines.
ASTA, in its statement, said that the passing of the bill comes after a unprecedented year of advocacy for the group that includes 14 separate federal and state campaigns, with 25,047 people sending 105,917 advocacy messages to their policymakers, as well as more than 150 meetings, calls and Zoom with Members of Congress and their staff.
ASTA said it will be hosting a members-only webinar in early January to go over the bill’s provisions for advisors, including how to apply for a second PPP loan.
U.S. Travel reacts
The reaction from the U.S. Travel Association, which represents all components of the industry, mirrored ASTA’s—the Association, in a statement released on Sunday, said that while the agreement is good news, more will be needed.
“It’s been a difficult road to get another round of much-needed legislative relief moving in Washington. We applaud the bipartisan group of senators that drove progress forward, and the congressional leadership for striking a bipartisan agreement to produce this desperately needed assistance. The agreed-upon provisions will give many suffering businesses a bridge to 2021,” President and CEO Roger Dow said.
“More will be needed to restore the 4.5 million travel jobs lost in the travel and tourism industry, but the process that produced this agreement is hopefully a positive sign for what will be possible to achieve in the next Congress. We urge swift action on this important legislation.”