‘Left Out’ Businesses Request Relief for Lingering Virus Effects

  • New coalition pushing for aid as losses continue to mount
  • Includes theme parks, travel agents, venues, racing industry

Theme parks, equipment rental companies, ski slopes, and travel agents are among the businesses claiming they’ve been “left out” of pandemic aid and joined forces to call on Congress and the Biden administration to help their bottom lines before they face financial ruin.

The swath of industries formed a new group called the Economic Bridge Coalition to push for their cause amid the country’s slow re-opening from coronavirus restrictions and as Americans’ reluctance to attend large gatherings continues.

The coalition said most of the businesses that make up its dozen association members lost 25% to 100% of their revenue from the second quarter through the fourth quarter in 2020 compared to the same time in 2019 — and they’re still in danger of closing for good.

“A trade show, horse show, state fair, wedding or annual vacation with visits to entertainment sites that didn’t happen in 2020 or 2021 can’t be magically re-created in the future,” the coalition said in a release announcing its launch. “Although the country is re-opening, many events planned for 2021 have already had to be canceled. The small- and medium-sized businesses that behind the scenes make events happen or operate their venues are trying to stay alive, but they are running out of time.”

Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Aldean performs during “Live From The Bonnaroo Farm” on May 15 in Manchester, Tenn.

The coalition’s ambitious goal is to target every member of Congress for new legislation that would give financial aid to businesses that have faced losses of a quarter or more during the pandemic months. It noted that unlike other economic sectors, its affiliated businesses won’t immediately find relief through the lifting of restrictions and, without help, will likely close and eliminate tens of thousands of jobs.

While industries like airlines and restaurants received targeted funds, others have relied on general aid measures, such as the Paycheck Protection Program and the Main Street Lending Program, which businesses panned for being ineffective and overly onerous. Those programs are also aimed at short-term relief, but aid is needed for the long haul, advocates say.

“There was aid for shuttered venues that passed last year, but that didn’t take care of all of the firms that support the shuttered venues,” John McClelland, vice president government affairs and chief economist of the American Rental Association, said in an email. “There is also aid to restaurants, but that doesn’t help my members who provide restaurants equipment for special events they hold.”

His group’s members are primarily family-owned businesses, he said. Many took one or two PPP loans, but it hasn’t been enough.

“They have borrowed, used up savings, even mortgaged their homes to stay afloat, but many are about to lose everything,” McClelland said in a statement.

Photo by Daniel Slim / AFP
The travel industry continues to be negatively affected by the coronavirus.

Another coalition partner, the American Society of Travel Advisors, is an industry of 160,000 employees. Almost every travel agency is classified as a small business by the Small Business Administration and two-thirds are owned by women, according to the group.

Other members of the Economic Bridge Coalition include the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, known as the IAAPA; the International Council of Airshows; the Outdoor Amusement Business Association; the International Association of Fairs and Expositions; the Professional Photographers Association; the Specialty Equipment Market Association; the Performance Racing Industry; the National Ski Areas Association; and the American Horse Council, representing the $122 billion U.S. horse industry.

“We’ve taken on mountains of debt and emptied any cash reserves we had in order to wait out this storm, but we are running out of options,” Dwayne Thomas, the Live Events Coalition’s chairperson for government affairs, said in a statement. “It takes many months to plan a typical live event, and organizers can’t even start that process in earnest until their states open fully. Without additional aid, many of our members won’t make it past the summer.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Megan R. Wilson in Washington at mwilson@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kyle Trygstad at ktrygstad@bgov.com; Bennett Roth at broth@bgov.com

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