Senate Bill to Support Tourism, Hospitality Would Provide $2.25B in Federal Grants

Posted on: February 11, 2021, 03:21h. 

Last updated on: February 11, 2021, 03:49h.

Legislation in the US Senate has been introduced that seeks to assist the tourism and hospitality industries in their COVID-19 recoveries.

Senate bill tourism hospitality STEP Act
Nevada Senator Catharine Cortez Masto, seen here on the Senate floor in 2017, wants Congress to help the struggling tourism and hospitality industries. Her STEP Act would provide federal grants to entities operating in those areas. (Image: AP)

Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D), along with Senate cosponsors Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Mn.), and Kevin Cramer (R-ND), today introduced another version of their Sustaining Tourism Enterprises During the COVID–19 Pandemic (STEP) Act. The 2021 STEP legislation would modify grant programs issued by the Economic Development Administration (EDA).

If STEP 2.0 passes and is signed by President Joe Biden, $2.25 billion would be set aside to provide economic support for companies and organizations involved in promoting and facilitating tourism, travel, and special events.

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.”

The same four senators first introduced STEP in July of last year. That version sought to require the Department of Commerce to provide grants to certain tourism entities. The legislation, however, never made it out of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

That same committee has received the 2021 STEP Act. S.307 is the legislation’s official designation.

Casinos Need Events, Conventions

The 2021 STEP Act is welcomed news to Las Vegas casinos. While leisure travelers heavily occupy the region’s more than 150,000 hotel rooms on the weekends during a non-pandemic environment, it’s conventioneers who keep the resorts bustling midweek.

The STEP Act would allow various businesses, as well as tourism and convention agencies, to qualify for federal grants. One such example would be the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA),

The STEP press release says the $2.25 billion in funding would support four main areas:

  • tourism marketing and promotion activities necessary to assist with economic recovery
  • to pay costs associated with providing information to visitors about the health and safety protections
  • 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, excluding industry executives

The LVCVA reports that convention attendance dropped 74 percent last year. Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak’s (D) ban on large indoor gatherings resulted in nearly every planned convention in April or later being canceled or postponed.

Assuring Public Safety

Cortez Masto, who succeeded Nevada’s longtime Senator Harry Reid in 2017, says the tourism, hospitality, and gaming industries have historically taken the longest to recover from economic downturns.

The senior senator from Nevada believes the federal government must step in to help such industries recover from the unprecedented crisis.

Cortez Masto concludes that the STEP Act will “promote economic recovery and help increase public confidence as these industries look to reopen safely in the future.”