More than a dozen of Loudoun’s hospitality and tourism industry business leaders gathered at Lansdowne Resort this morning to voice concerns about their finances amid the COVID-19 pandemic and to hear about the help Virginia’s federal legislators are proposing.
U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA-10) led a discussion that emphasized the Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive, or RESTAURANTS, Act, which Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) introduced in June and Warner cosponsors. That bill would provide grant funding for eligible food and beverage businesses.
Warner said that in place of the act, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in early September introduced the Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools, and Small Businesses Act—which was dubbed the “Skinny” bill because the relief funding it included was hundreds of millions of dollars less than what Democrats had been negotiating. Warner said the legislation did “nothing for restaurants” and “nothing meaningful on healthcare.” He added that not all Senate Republicans supported the bill.
“It was kind of a scam and it got voted down,” he said.
Warner said the federal government needs to take action to support the hospitality and tourism industry now and that if it waits until the next presidential term begins, the economic damage to the nation “would be stupidity on steroids.” Warner noted that Treasurer Secretary Steven Terner Mnuchin realizes how important it is to provide that support right now.
Warner also pointed out that he has never seen such a disconnect between the stock market and Americans’ personal finances—as the stock market continues to climb and many citizens’ finances, Warner said, are “running on fumes.”
To paint the picture of how poorly some hospitality industry businesses are doing in Loudoun, Visit Loudoun President CEO Beth Erickson said the county’s overall hotel occupancy is down by 37%, with many hotels closing some rooms to survive.
Reston Limousine President & CEO Kristina Bouweiri said she has put 70 buses out of service. Dinner Belle Catering Co-owner Michelle McIntyre said her Lovettsville-based catering business is down 60% and that she has catered only one event in the past few months. Fabbioli Cellars Owner Doug Fabbioli said he has no growth plan, only a survival plan.
Wexton said that because the federal Paycheck Protection Program is no longer accepting applications from businesses looking for loans, Congress now needs to take further action to support the hospitality and tourism industry. She mentioned that the House of Representatives has already passed the $2.2 trillion HEROES Act 2.0 stimulus bill, which provides targeted relief for private businesses in the hospitality industry. That bill remains stalled in the Senate.
“Now we need to make sure we come up with the next plan,” she said. “We need to do something more.”