by Tyler Arnold
More than 800 businesses and business associations are jointly urging the Virginia General Assembly to approve a budget item for $291 million in relief to the travel and hospitality industries, which was proposed by Gov. Ralph Northam.
Northam’s proposal would appropriate funds from the federally passed American Rescue Plan to help these industries bounce back from losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic restrictions. The General Assembly is scheduled to meet on Aug. 2 to consider the budget proposal.
The businesses and business associations signed a joint letter showing their support. It includes the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the Virginia Restaurant Lodging and Travel Association.
“For the last 16 months, the tourism, travel and hospitality industries saw a stark plunge in visitors and travelers,” Virginia Chamber of Commerce President Barry DuVal said in a statement.
“This multi-billion industry in Virginia was the hardest hit sector of Virginia’s economy,” Duval said. “With Virginia’s mild climate, historical areas, diverse geography and location to the nation’s Capital, the Commonwealth is an ideal location for vacationers, conferences, and outdoor enthusiasts. To help this important part of Virginia’s economy rebound, the Chamber supports additional investments in this industry to help it recover from the pandemic induced downturn in the economy.”
Tourism and hospitality saw record losses during the pandemic and one in five restaurants in the commonwealth were forced to shut down. The industries currently face between 200% to 300% in increased costs and are not able to fully staff their businesses, according to the Virginia Restaurant Lodging and Travel Association.
“The crisis for Virginia’s tourism and hospitality industry is still very much ongoing, even as other industries resume a sense of normal,” Eric Terry, the president of the association, said in a statement.
“As a voice for the industry, we must do our part to ensure our elected officials understand the urgency of our request,” Terry said. “Our members have suffered monumental losses over the course of the pandemic and are doing their best with limited resources to make up for the $14 billion deficit suffered last year. Governor Northam recognizes the urgency and has announced his intent to fund the tourism and hospitality recovery, and we have more than 800 organizations across the state who agree. We are calling on our state legislators to adopt this budget item and bring back our hotels, restaurants, and the tourism and hospitality industry that contributes so much to our communities and Commonwealth. We will be ensuring that our legislators hear from their constituents on this issue.”
The industries suffered about half of the total employment losses during the pandemic and have been unable to fill many positions since most of the restrictions have ended.
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Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and West Virginia for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.