Rogers ‘Happy’ for COVID Relief, But Liability Protection Needed

ATLANTA—Chip Rogers, president/CEO of the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) expressed gratitude about Congress reaching an agreement on a COVID relief package and described the next steps for the hotel industry when he spoke with Hotel Business before both houses passed the bill.

“We are very happy,” he said. “Obviously, it would have been nice to have it earlier, but we are still very grateful to have it now. We think this is going to help a lot of hoteliers be able to stay in business until we get into the late spring/early summer when people start traveling again. This is going to make a big difference.”

He added, “We are thankful. Did it take longer than we’d hoped? Absolutely, but they got it done and we are very grateful for that. There are going to be a lot of hotel jobs that are saved because of this.”

The agreement includes continued funding and changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), something that the AHLA and other industry organizations wanted. “On PPP, it is a home run,” said Rogers. “It is great. For hotels and restaurants, they increased the amount you can get in a PPP loan 2.5 times monthly payroll to 3.5 times monthly payroll. That is a 40% increase there. They added a few things to what can be covered under that, which is good. They also added complete deductibility for PPP expenses, so if you get $250,000 and you spend it on the right things, then all of that is deductible. That is really helpful on the tax side.”

Also helpful for the industry is a one-year extension for Troubled Debt Restructuring (TDR) relief so that banks can continue working with borrowers to gain additional forbearance and debt relief. “It will really help on the debt side,” he said. “It allows all of these lenders to continue to work with borrowers. That is very, very helpful.”

While the new legislation will be a great help in the recovery, there are still work to be done to help the industry. “First and foremost, we are continuing on liability protection,” said Rogers. “We hope and we believe that there should be a federal answer to this, but even if there is not, 13 states already passed it and we’ve got a number of other states that are considering it in early January of 2021, so getting liability protections passed will really help.”

He continued, “We are going to have to continue to work on the debt side. Even with the help of the PPP and the Troubled Debt Restructuring, there will need to be at some point, low-interest loans for people to keep their businesses from being foreclosed upon. Those two things in the short term, and then long term, we do need to look at how we encourage people to get back out and travel again. Could there be significant tax credits for traveling, both leisure travel and business travel?”

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