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The Latest on Coronavirus | April 28, 2020

Apr 28, 2020

From Tori Emerson Barnes at 6:36 PM on April 28:

USTravel_CMYK_logo_marked.jpgTHE LATEST

Federal/Legislative Updates

  • The U.S. Senate will return next Monday, May 4, to begin work on the next coronavirus relief bill, Majority Leader McConnell announced on Monday. While the U.S. House of Representatives had originally planned to return on the same day, Majority Leader Hoyer announced today that his chamber would not return next week after consulting with the Attending Physician for the U.S. Capitol. House Democrats had previously criticized the return as "dangerous" and called for new rules to allow proxy voting or remote voting.
  • Yesterday, the Federal Reserve released additional guidance on its municipal liquidity facility that will allow smaller U.S. counties and cities to take advantage of the program. Counties with at least 500,000 residents and cities with at least 250,000 residents will be eligible, as well as some multistate entities, and the facility will now purchase notes that mature up to 36 months from the date of issuance.
    • U.S. Travel had advocated for many of these changes and we are pleased to see this outcome in the rules for the program.
  • Last Friday, President Trump signed the next phase of coronavirus relief legislation, a targeted bill that provided $484 billion to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Impact Disaster Loans (EIDL) program. The bill will also provide additional funding for coronavirus testing efforts, an incredibly important priority for U.S. Travel as efforts to reopen the country begin. A full summary of the bill can be found here.
    • We are incredibly disappointed that the final bill did not extend eligibility for all 501(c) nonprofits and quasi-governmental organizations to the PPP. We remain committed to ensuring destination marketing organizations secure as much relief as possible through available programs while still fighting for an expanded PPP.
  • After the PPP program exhausted its funds last week, small businesses and politicians alike began criticizing larger companies that secured PPP loans. As a result, many large companies returned the loans, and new Treasury guidance now requires PPP borrowers to certify "in good faith" that "current economic uncertainty makes this loan request necessary to support the ongoing operations" of the company. The Small Business Administration (SBA) resumed accepting PPP loan applications from approved lenders on behalf of any eligible borrower yesterday morning.
  • In response to the backlash, the Federal Reserve also announced that it will begin revealing the names of companies that take advantage of its lending programs every month, as well as how much the companies borrowed and at what rate.
  • Last week, House Democrats released the Reopen America Act, a bill that would create a federal panel to work with states on reopening strategies. The legislation also encourages states to work with others in their regions.

Travel Industry Updates

  • National Travel and Tourism Week begins this Sunday, May 3. The industry will come together to honor the #SpiritOfTravel. Our full toolkit can be found here, and a guide to our brand-new Virtual Road Trip, taking place on Twitter on May 5, can be found here.
  • In conjunction with several other industry partners, and at the request of the White House, U.S. Travel is leading the development of a set of safety protocols that can be adopted industry-wide. We are collaborating closely with member organizations in every industry segment and partner associations, as well as medical experts, as we work to make Americans feel safe throughout every part of their travel experience. More details will be available next week.
  • New guidance on Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and Economic Development Administration (EDA) grants was released last week. U.S. Travel has a host of resources available for destinations to start the process to receive a waiver that would allow CDBG funds to be used for tourism promotion, as well as information on the EDA application process (additional information is expected this week).
  • Sens. Cassidy (R-LA) and Manchin (D-WV) circulated a bipartisan letter last week that encouraged leadership to include 501(c)(6) organizations in the next round of coronavirus relief funding. The letter garnered signatures from 16 additional senators on both sides of the aisle—many thanks to all of you who activated last week to urge your senator to sign on. Sens. Cassidy and Manchin's letter joins an additional letter in the Senate and six letters in the U.S. House of Representatives that have been sent to Congressional leadership with the same request. There have also been many letters sent independently by Sens. Gardner (R-CO) and Cortez Masto (D-NV), among others.
  • U.S. Travel also sent a second letter to Congress yesterday, signed by almost 600 organizations, asking that they include DMOs of all organizational structures in the PPP. Thanks to all of you who signed on.
  • Last week, the National Park Service withdrew plans to increase commercial tour entrance fees. They also will not implement a nationwide commercial use authorization (CUA) requirement for road-based commercial tours in national parks.
    • U.S. Travel has been working on this matter since the proposed changes were announced, and given the important role national parks will play in the country's recovery from coronavirus—almost half of Americans plan to visit a park in the next six months, according to MMGY Travel Intelligence—we are pleased to see this development.
    • President Trump announced plans last week to begin reopening national parks soon.

DMO RELIEF NOW AND WHAT'S NEXT

Earlier today, we held a second webinar focused on DMOs and the relief they are eligible to access right now under the CARES Act. Alejandro Contreras, director of preparedness, communication and coordination at the Small Business Administration, spoke on the webinar as well.

A full recording of the webinar is available below, and the slides may be accessed here. If we did not get to your question during the webinar, a member of our team will reach out in the coming days with a response.

Weekly Update: COVID-19 Readiness and Response


OTHER CORONAVIRUS NEWS

Domestic Updates

  • This week, as the U.S. reached over 1 million cases of the coronavirus, several U.S. states began reopening or started to publicly share their reopening plans.
    • Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee have allowed some stores to reopen, though most have not announced confirmed dates for a full reopening of their local economies.
    • Texas will allow the state's stay-at-home order to end on Thursday, while Minnesota will allow some stores to begin reopening next Monday, May 4.
    • New York will approach reopening regionally, lifting the stay-at-home order in some places upstate on May 15 while extending the order in places like New York City. New Jersey, meanwhile, extended its shutdown order indefinitely.
    • Both Colorado and Nevada joined the coalition of Western states that planned to coordinate their lifting of coronavirus restrictions.
    • Missouri announced they will reopen businesses on Monday, May 4 as long as residents and businesses practice proper social distancing requirements.
  • Another 4.4 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the five-week total to 26.5 million unemployment claims. However, the actual number of unemployed Americans is likely much higher, leading some observers to note that unemployment is likely at Great Depression levels already. In addition, unemployment payments from the federal government have been delayed in some states, leading some jobless workers to receive smaller checks than expected.
  • As states began widespread use of antibody tests, questions still remain about the test's accuracy and whether coronavirus antibodies can actually prevent a person from being infected. However, current antibody testing has suggested that the virus was present in places like California, New York, Washington, D.C., and Washington state weeks earlier than experts originally thought.

International Updates

  • Several countries are testing ways to reopen their economies safely this week.
    • Chile will issue "immunity passports" to residents who have recovered from the virus, though there are some concerns that those who had the disease may still be susceptible to reinfection in the future.
    • The Czech Republic is accelerating its five-step reopening plan, with gyms and all stores smaller than 2,500 square meters allowed to reopen on Monday. The country also became one of the first to open its borders for outbound foreign travel.
    • Germany has allowed smaller stores to reopen with social distancing measures in place, though it has still encouraged residents to stay home when possible.
    • Italy will begin relaxing shutdown measures on Monday, May 4—residents will be allowed to visit relatives, parks, factories and building sites will be permitted to open. Other businesses will be allowed to open in phases.
    • New Zealand health officials claim that they have "eliminated" coronavirus and began to ease restrictions.
  • After recovering from the coronavirus earlier this month, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson returned to work on Monday.

U.S. TRAVEL RESOURCES

U.S. Travel's website hosts three major hubs of coronavirus information and resources for the travel industry.

CARES ACT RESOURCES

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