Rosen Chairs Subcommittee Hearing Focused on Investing in America’s Tourism and Hospitality Workforce and Small Businesses

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Chair of the Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion held a hearing on supporting America’s tourism and hospitality workforce and small businesses. Witnesses – including D. Taylor, International President of UNITE HERE; Shaundell Newsome, Chair of the Urban Chamber of Commerce, Las Vegas; Bill Lupfer, President and CEO of Florida Attractions Association; and Drew Daly, Senior Vice President of Dream Vacations World Travel Holdings gave insight into the challenges the tourism and hospitality industries have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. The hearing also reviewed regional impacts of COVID-19 on communities that depend on tourism and hospitality workforces, and Congress’ efforts to support workers and small businesses as these industries reopen and recover. A transcript of the Senator’s full exchange can be found below, and a video of the Senator’s full exchange can be found here.

ROSEN: Over the past year, Nevada’s small businesses – particularly the businesses who depend on our tourism and hospitality industry for their customers – we know they have struggled to keep their doors open due to COVID-19. 

In response, Congress passed numerous small business support programs, [including] the Paycheck Protection Program, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund; those helped small businesses stay afloat and keep their workers on the payroll. 

Unfortunately, PPP ran out of funds on May 4th, and just yesterday, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund stopped taking new applications. With hospitality and tourism being slower to recover than other industries, additional limited, targeted relief may be needed until business and leisure travelers in both the U.S. and abroad have confidence to travel once again.

Mr. Newsome, as the tourism and hospitality industry slowly recovers from the economic impacts of the public health crisis, what additional support should Congress provide our small businesses, and what investments do you think we might make more broadly? We want a healthy economy, and we want to support everything you are working on.

NEWSOME: Well, thank you very much, Senator Rosen. One of the things that I think is real important is continuing to provide access to capital to small and minority businesses, because we know that systemically that has been a challenge for most of our minority-owned firms. We’ve found that it was very, very difficult to get access to capital. Opening up CDFIs and opening up alternative lending resources have been very, very beneficial to small businesses. 

The other thing is broadband. As you know, in Nevada, we have a lot of rural businesses, and really they have a challenge with some of these Zoom calls and different opportunities to do business online. I think that’s extremely important. The other thing that I mentioned was child care. I know that a lot of 

My employees and people who are members of the Chamber; They were not only challenged with going back to work. A lot of employees were not just challenged with funding from a package or from unemployment. But, a lot of them were struggling with child care and what they do with their children to keep them safe. 

Let’s say that those are crucial – in particular for small businesses, continue to find the small business development centers, continue to fund the resources that help small business owners to become better operators of their businesses. 

I was fortunate to spend time in the military. I was fortunate and blessed to work in gaming and hospitality, and I learned a lot from those industries. Not everybody has that opportunity, so I think that is a great opportunity there. And then the last thing I’ll say – it’s real important – is the health care cost. It is really important that we help small businesses have an opportunity to provide affordable health care for their employees, as well as try to defray the cost and ensure we’re not spending all of our money on health care, where we should be providing most of the money to our employees and helping to provide better services to our clients and our customers. 

So I think what’s important is don’t forget small businesses. Small businesses are the backbone of this country. We bring people back to work faster, we do a lot. So we do appreciate what’s happened, but there’s a lot more to be done. Thank you.

ROSEN: Well, that’s a good segue. Thank you to Mr. Taylor, because earlier this year, with the American Rescue Plan, Senator Cortez Masto and I worked diligently to ensure that 100% of COBRA insurance was covered during the pandemic. People lost their job through no fault of their own, and we really secured that. 

We knew how important it was to our Culinary Workers’ Union. To all our union members, and just workers across this country. So just a few seconds I have left. We’ll go into a second round, of course. Can you talk about the impact that fully subsidized COBRA health benefits had on your members in the hospitality and tourism industry?

TAYLOR: Yes, Senator Rosen. I think that that’s one of the keystones that’s helped people survive. 100% COBRA subsidy is going to allow members to get back on health insurance. In our industry, basically, a lot in the hospitality industry, only 23% of employers continue to provide health care benefits. So in the middle of a health care pandemic, we had people losing health care. So this has been a huge plus under the American Rescue Plan. We’re enrolling people now. It’s for six months. 

And, bluntly, if I was looking ahead to what Congress can do is even if people are returning to work, they often have to re-qualify for health care. […] Right when we were shut down, right in the middle of a health care pandemic, we had people losing health care. That seems counterintuitive to just basic reason. I can’t think of anything more impactful that came under the American Rescue Plan than the 100% COBRA subsidy.

ROSEN: Well, thank you, Mr. Taylor. Senator Cortez Masto and I were glad to work on that.