Now that the American Rescue Plan (ARP) has been signed into law, the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) took time to highlight some of the benefits travel advisors can look for in the massive $1.9 trillion legislative package.
In a Facebook Live address, ASTA president and CEO Zane Kerby and executive vice president of advocacy Eben Peck spoke to travel advisors about new research showing positive signs for the industry, how the legislation will affect travel advisors and what they plan to push for from the Congress going forward.
Kerby started with the good news: More than ever consumers think that life may return to normal sooner than they thought.
ASTA research found, in its 19th wave of its “Back to Normal Barometer,” that more and more people are lining up to receive the vaccine, even those who were skeptical at first.
Research showed that the desire to travel is a major driver to get vaccinated. Sixty-seven percent of respondents agreed that vaccinations will free them to travel.
The research also showed the Americans do not think the government is doing enough to help the travel industry and they want this inequity to be addressed.
Sixty percent of Americans agree that government is helping big travel businesses more than mom-and-pop travel businesses, and 60 percent also agree that the government is not doing enough to support travel advisors.
“We also know that elected officials have done quite a bit for large well-known travel-reliant businesses such as airlines and hotels but they’ve done far less for less visible sectors of the industry,” said Kerby.
Kerby highlighted ASTA’s partnership with Politico, noting that it is one of the most most widely read and respected outlets used by legislators and their staff.
“We’ve taken this unprecedented step of direct advertising in a place that legislators are most likely to look to get in their face a little,” noted Kerby.
ASTA is making this move in addition to its existing grassroots and lobbying efforts.
Peck went on to identify the parts of the more than 600-page bill that will most benefit travel advisors.
ARP extended unemployment benefits at $300 per week and broadened eligibility for ICs through September 6, 2021. The bill also excludes unemployment compensation of up to $10,200 from an individual’s gross income for the tax year 2020 if your gross income is less than $150,000.
Businesses will also benefit from the extension of the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) through the end of 2021.
The ARP also includes $15 billion to allow EIDL borrowers to receive the full $10,000 grant, which was reduced when the Small Business Association was overwhelmed with applicants. Priority is given to borrowers with severe revenue losses and those in low-income communities.
ARP also included $350 billion to state and local governments that can be set aside for travel and tourism companies. Peck noted that travel agencies and advisors will most likely see this money in the form of state-level grants similar to ongoing programs in California, Massachusetts and Virginia.
ASTA will continue to advocate for programs that didn’t make it into the bill, including the inclusion of travel agencies in the “Shuttered Venue” grant program and the extension of the PPP loan program for hard-hit industries.