Congress Passes $900 Billion Stimulus Deal; CVBs Eligible for PPP

After initially railing against the stimulus package, President Trump signed the bill into law — ensuring direct payments for most Americans, aid for airlines and live-event venues, and an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program to include convention and visitor bureaus.

Updated Jan. 5, 2021. Following months of negotiations, Congress approved a $900 billion government spending and stimulus deal on Dec. 21 which President Trump signed into law nearly a week later. After calling the bill a "disgrace" in a video posted to Twitter, Trump averted a government shutdown by capitulating and signing the legislation on Dec. 27. The bill, which was passed by both chambers of Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support, is the second-largest stimulus package in U.S. history, after the $2 trillion CARES Act passed in March, according to CNN.

CVB Requirements

The stimulus package includes expanded coverage of the Paycheck Protection Program to convention and visitor bureaus, which had previously been left out of the CARES Act. Eligible CVBs are required to meet the following criteria:

  • The CVB has to be registered as a 501(c) organization, a quasigovernment entity or a political subdivision of a state or local government;
  • The organization must have 300 employees or fewer;
  • Lobbying activities can make up no more than 15 percent of the organization's activities; and
  • No more than 15 percent of the CVB's revenue can come from lobbying.

"We fought incredibly hard to help lawmakers understand that an economic recovery simply will not be as strong without the essential work of destination marketing organizations. Ultimately, leaders got the message, and at long last DMOs will be eligible to apply for assistance under the Paycheck Protection Program," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. "Crucially, that includes DMOs with under 300 employees, and also both nonprofits and quasigovernmental organizations. This provision is going to boost the chances of a turnaround for economies in every corner of the country."

An extension to the PPP not only allows DMOs to access funding, but also enables other small businesses to apply for a second loan. This could help hoteliers, which have struggled during the Covid-19 crisis. According to a November report from the American Hotel and Lodging Association, 71 percent of hoteliers said they would not survive another six months without federal aid, such as a second PPP loan.

"This short-term relief package is a vital step toward helping the hotel industry survive this crisis," said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, just after Congressional approval. "The proposed measure provides temporary relief over the next few months and will help thousands of hotels stay open and retain employees."

Further Stimulus Bill Details

Airlines, which received $25 billion under the CARES Act, will get an additional $15 billion in aid. These funds should help bring back the 32,000 workers who were furloughed in the fall. The bill also includes $2 billion for airports, as well as $15 billion for live-event venues, independent movie theaters and cultural institutions such as museums. Eligible venues must be able to demonstrate a 25 percent reduction in revenue. Additional provisions include:

  • Full deductions of business meals in 2021 and 2022;
  • An extension of the Employee Retention Tax Credit through July 1, 2021; and
  • The ability for organizations to use money through the Coronavirus Relief Fund until Dec. 31, 2021.

The new stimulus package provides $600 checks for individuals who make $75,000 or less. Couples who make a combined annual income of up to $150,000 will receive $1,200, as well as $600 per child. Also included are unemployment benefits of $300 per week, through March 14.

"Seeing this bill make it across the finish line is a huge relief after months of struggle," said Dow. But he noted that additional aid will be needed in the coming months to ensure the travel industry fully recovers from the pandemic. Travel has been among the hardest-hit sectors, with an unemployment rate that remains more than double the national average. "This legislation is a lifeline for businesses and workers who have been hanging on by a thread... Hopefully now that this challenging legislative step has been overcome, we can head into the next Congress with momentum for further substantive measures to rejuvenate businesses and jobs."