WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) joined Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) in introducing 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.

“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,” Senator Klobuchar said. “This bipartisan legislation will provide much-needed support to help states, cities, towns, and organizations weather this health and economic crisis—and help boost local economies throughout Minnesota and across the country.”                   

“Nevada’s world-class tourism economy—and the families it supports—have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “When hotels, restaurants, and event venues across the state welcome visitors, the public and employees alike need reassurance that travel and events are safe. I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to fund grants for sanitation, staff, and marketing that will allow Nevadans and visitors alike to safely connect as the state continues to reopen.”

“The travel and tourism industry is a critical part of our state’s economy and one that’s been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator Blunt. “This bill will help tourism-related businesses, and the hundreds of thousands of jobs they support, get back to full speed as quickly and safely as possible. I urge all of our colleagues to support this bill and the hardworking men and women who have made Missouri a national and international travel destination.”

“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 COVID-19,” said Senator 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:

Travel and tourism sectors 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 $10 billion in funding through the EDA to provide grants for tourism and event entities impacted by COVID–19. Grants are available to any entities (states, tribes, regional groups, nonprofits, quasi-governmental orgs, and privates businesses) that: 

  • perform tourism promotion operations; 
  • host, organize, own, operate, or staff event venues, conventions, or trade shows; or
  • provide services as a concessionaire to events and tourism locations.  

Applicants will be asked to provide the local negative economic impact, including job losses, and there is no local funding match requirement. The funding would support:

  • tourism marketing and promotion activities necessary to assist with economic recovery;
  • paying cleaning and sanitary costs, including physical modifications, associated with precautions to provide for safe worker, traveler, or event environments;
  • paying costs of salaries and expenses associated with the operations of the applicants.

The full text of the bill is available here.

As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and co-chair of the Senate Travel and Tourism Caucus, Klobuchar has long championed efforts to support tourism in the U.S. as a way to drive economic growth.

Earlier this month, Klobuchar and Cortez Masto led 14 of their Senate colleagues in a letter to Congressional leaders calling for additional funding for the Economic Development Administration (EDA)’s programs in future coronavirus economic recovery legislation. These programs help drive local economic development projects, develop new industries, build vital infrastructure, and enhance tourism and travel.

Last year, Klobuchar helped secure the reauthorization of Brand USA through 2027. Brand USA is a public-private partnership that enhances tourism and job creation across the country. The program, which was established under the bipartisan Travel Promotion Act of 2009, brings in millions of additional international visitors to the U.S. each year at zero cost to taxpayers.

 

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