Vice President of Tourism Amy Spear
Montpelier, VT (May 29, 2020) – Congressman Peter Welch heard from over 80 businesses in the state’s lodging sector during a virtual Vermont Chamber Town Hall about how COVID-19 is affecting Vermont’s lodging properties. The May 26 Town Hall (recorded here) was an opportunity for lodging businesses to further Congressman Welch’s understanding of COVID-19’s impact, share ideas, and help shape what future assistance will look like.
There was a resounding consensus among lodging proprietors that the industry has been decimated by this health crisis and that more needs to be done to help these Vermont businesses survive. Lodging industry representatives urged Congressman Welch to advocate for changes to the Paycheck Protection Program and unemployment insurance. They also asked for consideration of tax credits, and liability protections.
It was echoed by many that assistance provided by the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans is not enough for small Vermont businesses. Additionally, with a $600 weekly bonus added to unemployment, employees may have less incentive to return to work. Changing this to an incentive to return to work would help businesses, their employees, and the economy.
Peter MacLaren of West Hill House B&B in Warren said, “Unlike the options some other businesses have, we can’t deliver bed-and-breakfast over the internet and we can’t offer curbside pick-up. We are simply stuck with zero revenue.”
Congressman Welch responded to questions and committed to taking the issues and ideas back to Congress.
Congressman Welch said, “The great work by the lodging sector in Vermont is so important to our sense of self and is critical to our economy. I have always admired the love that goes into this work to create places visitors and Vermonters want to come to. I understand that the Paycheck Protection Program, currently, does not work well for lodging businesses. It did not address the real-world situation that these businesses are in. We need to help businesses in the lodging sector stabilize and then recover.”
Attendees of the Town Hall also expressed frustration over the state’s 14-day quarantine which prevents properties from hosting guests and urged the Vermont Chamber to advocate for a clear “order of go” for business openings. This would provide businesses with phased guidance and an order of openings planned by industry. Even without specific dates, it would help all businesses create plans for orderly opening.
Vermont Chamber Vice President of Tourism Amy Spear said, “While we are not ready to wholeheartedly welcome visitors back into the state, tourism represents a large portion of Vermont’s economy, bringing significant revenue to communities. The impacts of COVID-19 have devastated the lodging sector, and we will continue to advocate for financial and regulatory relief to keep the industry on solid ground.”