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Severely impacted by coronavirus crisis, Indian-American hoteliers seek urgent help from Congress

NRI Pulse Staff Report

Atlanta, GA, March 23, 2020: The Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) is urging its members to write to their Representatives and Senators to address the severe challenges the industry is facing amid the coronavirus crisis. AAHOA represents nearly 20,000 members who own nearly 50 percent of all hotels in the US and employ nearly 600,000 workers accounting for over $10 billion in annual payroll.

The form letter provides detailed policy solutions to address the challenges.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is inflicting significant financial strains upon hoteliers across the country. Many are now worried about making payroll and paying their mortgage. Now, more than ever, Congress must protect those affected most by the coronavirus,” the appeal states.

“AAHOA is working around the clock to ensure that our lawmakers in Washington, D.C. and state capitals hear America’s hotel owners’ concerns loud and clear. Lawmakers need to understand the issues our members are confronting amidst this national crisis.”

“The hotel industry is in severe distress and we need your help now!  As the coronavirus has spread, it has rightfully led to event cancellations and travel restrictions out of concerns for health and safety. As a result, we have seen a dramatic dropoff in guests in every hotel across the country,” the form letter states. 

“While we prepare for downturns and unexpected circumstances each year, no business can ever be prepared for a national economic catastrophe like this. The hardest-hit people during this time are our employees and America’s small businesses.  Because we have no guests to serve, rooms to clean, shuttles to drive, or meals to prepare, our staff do not have work and I do not have the capital necessary to pay them.  Employees’ hours are limited and jobs have unfortunately already been lost.  We literally cannot pay our employees and we cannot meet our mortgages.  I am terrified that within weeks, I will be forced to close my hotel. “

The letter urges the Congress to allocate $100 billion for the creation of a Hospitality Workforce Relief Fund – Create grants to businesses so hoteliers can retain and rehire employees. 

“The outlook for the spring and summer travel season is bleak as cancellations pile up.  The fund would help employers make payroll, slow rising unemployment, and help keep employees on employer-provided health insurance, lessening the impact on the -Unemployment Insurance program,” the form letter suggests. 

The letter also asks for allocation of $50 billion for flexibility in lending: Facilitate forbearance of principal and interest payments on debt during this health crisis, and make federal funds available to owners to cover debt.  Small business hotel owners that are facing severe economic circumstances who are able to have debt canceled should not be required to pay taxes on this Cancellation of Debt (COD) income. 

Also on the list of measures is access to small business loans: Provide hotel owners with zero interest, unsecured loans and loan guarantees from SBA, capping loan sizes at $10 million and allowing forbearance for the first 12 months. 

The form letter is also requesting Congress to ensure hotel owners have immediate access to capital to make their payroll and mortgage payments.  “Congress should establish a voluntary liquidity facility program to provide zero-interest loans or loan guarantees to hotel owners.  We need the lending process to work much faster in order to provide meaningful help to our businesses,” the letter suggests.

Also on the list of measures is support of regulatory flexibility for lenders: Request support to Eliminate Troubled Debt Restructuring (TDR) status for businesses affected by the COVID-19 crisis that pursue workout arrangement with affected business borrowers or to create a separate designation for COVID-19 related loans.  A TDR designation remains throughout the life of the loan.  A declaration at this point will discourage lenders from finding adequately flexible workout arrangements with lodging industry borrowers

The letter is also asking to eliminate administrative burdens for SBA disaster loans: The Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) program is not working.  The EIDL process requires state governors to request assistance before business owners can apply.  Hoteliers need capital now.  Although the funds exist, it will take at minimum 4-6 weeks before any hotel owner sees any relief to help make payroll — by then, layoffs will occur and doors may close.  Support the elimination of the governor’s request process requirement before applications can be accepted.   

“The hotel business is small business. We are very close to our employees and often spend years and careers working together.  We all need your help today so our industry can survive,” the letter adds.

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