The Lansing-based Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association has released public policy proposals to address how the American Rescue Plan Act funds Michigan received for hospitality industry relief efforts could be most effectively used.
The act was signed into law on March 11 by President Joe Biden and provides $5.7 billion to the state of Michigan, and another $4.4 billion to Michigan cities and counties to address the financial impact caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the bill broadly references support for impacted small businesses as qualifying recipients, the travel, tourism, and hospitality industry was the only one singled out as a targeted recipient.
“The intent of Congress and President Biden is unmistakably clear,” says Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the MRLA. “The American Rescue Plan Act recognized that the hospitality industry has been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and specifically crafted the bill to target state and local relief to devastated travel, tourism, and hospitality professionals.”
The association’s proposals address businesses including restaurants, hotels, and banquet facilities, as well as workforce development.
“While the MRLA supports the governor’s Vacc to Normal plan and appreciates its benchmarks tied to metrics, it is becoming increasingly apparent that a 70 percent vaccination rate is several months away at best,” Winslow says. “This brings into focus the continued need for financial support of a hospitality industry still operating under strict capacity restrictions.”
In order to provide immediate relief, the association proposed the creation of a Michigan fund similar to the Federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund administered by the Small Business Administration to provide grants to small restaurant operators that can demonstrate significant financial loss due to COVID-19. It advocates that $250 million is put into a Michigan fund to meet the steep demand that exceeds the federal fund’s offerings.
The association also wants to allocate $100 million toward incentives to book meetings and events in Michigan. It would include a 15 percent credit against the hard costs associated with hosting a meeting or event through 2022, including hotel rooms, food and beverage, and audiovisual expenses.
Finally, it also recommends enacting hospitality industry-specific relief detailed in Senate Bill 114 totaling $405 million, including property tax relief, unemployment insurance tax relief, liquor license tax relief, food service establishment license relief, and license and inspection fee relief.
In order to create a safe dining and traveling environment, the association wants to invest $150 million toward improving ventilation and air quality through direct reimbursement to restaurants, event spaces, and banquet halls that install a functioning HVAC system that meets specified efficiency standards.
It also wants to incentivize heightened COVID-19 safety training and higher sanitation standards for all restaurants, hotels, and banquet venues in the state by allocating $5 million to improve public safety outcomes.
The association’s third goal is to offer hospitality workforce development, recruitment, and retention. It wants to designate $50 million toward an employer tax credit for hospitality employee cash incentive for workers hired or rehired on or after March 11, 2021.
It also wants to earmark $10 million to subsidize the cost to achieve industry certifications such as ServSafe and hotel certifications through the American Hotel and Lodging Education Institute.
The association also wants to launch an industry-specific job board, funded with $2.5 million. Finally, it also wants to restore the ProStart program and launch the Hospitality and Tourism Management curriculum with $2 million in funding to provide training and tools to up-and-coming restaurant and foodservice workers.
More information on the proposal is available here.
The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association was founded in 1921 and provides services to the foodservice and lodging community. It represents more than 5,000 Michigan foodservice and lodging establishments. The industry employs more than 595,000 people and creates nearly $40 billion in annual sales.