It’s time for Congress to act on another COVID-19 relief bill. And local customers can help out, too.
Business travel is down. Tourism is down. And as local hotels, bars and restaurants know firsthand, no one is coming to Champaign-Urbana these fall weekends for Illinois football or volleyball games.
Globally, and especially in the United States, the hospitality industry has taken a mammoth financial hit with aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A survey of American Hotel & Lodging Association members found that the hotel industry is close to collapse. Nearly 70 percent of hotels have less than half of their typical staff working full time, and without further governmental assistance, 74 percent of those responding said they would be forced to lay off more employees.
In Illinois, the association said, more than 22,000 hotel jobs have been lost and more than 1,000 hotels will close without more federal assistance.
In Champaign alone, proceeds from the city’s hotel-motel tax are down substantially compared with a year earlier. For the month of May, for example, the city’s yield from the hotel-motel tax dropped from $345,905 to $111,049.
Things are not quite as dire when it comes to Champaign’s food-and-beverage tax, although most of that is because the tax rate increased from 0.5 percent to 2.5 percent on Jan. 1. In May, the city collected $360,322 from the tax, compared with about $130,000 a year earlier. But the city would have collected about $600,000 were it not for the devastating effects of the pandemic.
Clearly, the COVID-19 outbreak has damaged the hospitality industry especially, but also state and local governments that rely on those businesses for tax money. Just as hotels, bars and restaurants have had to cut jobs, local governments are doing the same and looking at cuts in vital services.
That’s why Congress, if it ever decides to revisit what is an increasingly alarming economic emergency, has to consider relief not just to airlines, hotels and restaurants, but also local governments.
Residents can do their part as well by continuing to safely patronize restaurants and bars that offer outdoor or roomy indoor seating. These businesses and their employees are facing difficult times as less-hospitable weather nears. And there’s only so much they can do to make it comfortable to sit outside on a 40-degree night. But customers can take advantage of relatively pleasant weather now to support local businesses and their employees.