Washington Hospitality Association President and CEO Anthony Anton was joined by a bipartisan group of lawmakers from across the state in a press conference today (Nov. 23) to commit to working on urgent relief for the hospitality industry.
“The hospitality industry has been hanging by a thread. Before this latest shutdown, we were estimating that 35 percent of our state’s hospitality businesses would close permanently and this latest shutdown is only going to make that worse,” Anton said. “We appreciate the governor’s $70 million of grants that he announced, but we also know that’s just a start,” he said, adding that it covers about 2 days of a four-week shutdown.
Sen. Karen Keizer said the hospitality industry has been hit hardest, with families relying on unemployment insurance that will soon run out. “It is important for us to make sure they get robust relief immediately,” she said.
She says for every day we wait, “we’re going to have people’s holidays ruined, their dreams ruined” and fewer jobs.
Rep. Gina Mosbrucker, a hotel owner, said tourism, hospitality and small businesses are the heartbeat of so many of Washington’s communities. “I have over 25 years in the hospitality industry and tourism and I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said, of the COVID pandemic.
She says grants are urgently needed rather than additional loans. “The reality is, we don’t have customers. I had to close my hotel for two months, and to make up that revenue is just not possible,” she says, so loans could lead to some businesses closing even more quickly.
Sen. Shelly Short says it’s critical that lawmakers work across the aisle to find solutions for small businesses now. “We need to step forward and do the emergent things that need to be done,” she said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to do this.”
“It’s time for us to step up,” Sen. Short said.
Rep. Larry Springer says the thing he feared the most at the outset of the pandemic was a second shutdown. “The hospitality industry is nothing if not tenacious. When you spend 40 or 50 years of your life working in a business that provides you about a 4 percent margin, you have some backbone.”
“On Day 1 of the 2021 session, one of the highest priorities (is) … what can we do at the state level” to provide financial relief for industries including hospitality, Springer said.
The press conference aired on TVW and can be found here: https://www.tvw.org/watch/?eventID=2020111110