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Pandemic Relief Package Gives Travel Industry a Boost

$900 billion measure includes new airline relief, paycheck protection funding for hotel workers

Following months of contentious political infighting, Congress has passed a $900 billion pandemic relief package that includes key provisions for sectors of the travel industry, promising critical stopgap help for airlines and hotels.

Late Monday night, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the measure 91-7. Earlier in the evening the House approved the massive spending bill by a vote of 359-53, part of a larger spending package to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year.

The coronavirus relief package includes a number of provisions, including a one-time $600 direct payment to most individual Americans, $300 a week supplemental unemployment insurance benefits through March and funding to help distribute coronavirus vaccines.

Also included in the measure is $15 billion in aid for airlines and an extension of the Payroll Support Program, a provision of the earlier CARES Act that expired in October, leading to tens of thousands of layoffs. In order to receive the assistance, airlines are required to call back any employees who were furloughed in October.

According to United CEO Scott Kirby, the measure enables United “to offer temporary employment to thousands of our team members who were impacted on September 30.”

However, Kirby cautioned in a statement, “We don’t expect customer demand to change much between now and the end of the first quarter of 2021,” adding, “That is why we expect the recall will be temporary.”

The hotel industry also stands to benefit, as the bill also includes $284 billion for a second round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to support small business payrolls. Chip Rogers, CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association called the provision “a critical lifeline for hotels.”

The measure also extends the PPP to include destination marketing organizations, a top priority for the US Travel Association. In a statement, USTA president and CEO Roger Dow said, “Washington is delivering a huge holiday gift to US businesses and workers after an incredibly challenging year. The agreed-upon provisions will give many suffering businesses a bridge to 2021.”