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Blunt, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Support Tourism and Hospitality Industries, Protect Workers

February 12, 2021

WASHINGTON – This week, U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (Mo.), Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), and Kevin Cramer (N.D.) introduced bipartisan legislation to provide economic support for organizations involved in promoting and hosting tourism, travel, or other special events. The Sustaining Tourism Enterprises During the COVID–19 Pandemic (STEP) Act would modify existing Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant programs to provide direct support to the hard-hit tourism and travel industry to promote economic recovery and help increase public confidence as these industries look to reopen safely in the future.

“The travel and tourism industry - a critical part of our state’s economy - has been devastated by the pandemic,” said Blunt. “The STEP Act utilizes an existing program to direct much-needed support to tourism-related businesses as our economy works its way back to full speed. As co-chair of the Senate Travel and Tourism Caucus, I will continue advocating for policies to ensure our travel destinations and convention centers make it through this crisis and are ready to welcome visitors back as quickly and safely as possible.”

“As we work to safely reopen our economy, we must be doing all we can to support those who drive our hospitality industry, including within our live entertainment and outdoor recreation sectors,” said Cortez Masto. “This legislation will help our struggling tourism marketing and convention entities and ensure we promote safe travel and tourism for both visitors and workers.”

“From Lake Superior to the Mall of America, Minnesota is home to exceptional tourist destinations—but as travel has been limited during the coronavirus pandemic, the tourism industry has been hit particularly hard,” said Klobuchar. “I’m proud to support this legislation, which will help organizations that promote travel and tourism, and I will continue working hard to get the tourism industry back on its feet during this difficult time.”

“As a former North Dakota Tourism Director, I know how much states rely on tourism for jobs and funding, but this important industry could be one of the last to fully recover from impact of COVID-19,” said Cramer. “The STEP Act uses an already-existing grant program to provide direct support for struggling travel and tourism businesses and gives them more opportunities to show the American people they are safely reopening.”

BACKGROUND: 

Missouri’s travel and tourism sectors, like others across the country, have experienced an unprecedented crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic. The travel industry has historically taken the longest to recover from economic downturns, and travelers understandably need reassurance that travel is safe during a pandemic. The STEP Act would authorize $2.25 billion in funding through the EDA to provide grants for tourism and event entities impacted by COVID–19. It would also authorize a permanent change to EDA eligible expenses to include “travel promotion” spending, which would include funding for tourism marketing.

Grants are available to any entities that perform tourism promotion operations. The funding would help cover:

  • tourism marketing and promotion activities necessary to assist with economic recovery; 
       
  • costs associated with providing information to visitors about the health and safety protections;
       
  • cleaning and sanitary costs, including physical modifications, associated with precautions to provide for safe worker, traveler, or event environments; and
       
  • costs of salaries and expenses associated with the operations of the applicants, excluding industry executives.

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