April 3, 2020
Over the last few weeks, I’ve come to two undeniable conclusions. The first is that the Wisconsin tourism industry was one of the first and hardest hit industries as we’ve worked to flatten the curve of COVID-19. The second is that if provided the financial resources, we will lead Wisconsin’s economic comeback.
Proposed State Relief Funds
Today, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers showed his commitment to our industry by including several provisions in his second package of relief and support legislation. With the Department of Tourism’s return on investment increasing to $8-to-$1, it is clear that tourism promotion is a great investment in Wisconsin’s economic recovery. The provisions include:
1) Regional Destination Marketing Organization Grant Program ($2 Million)
In order to uplift our entire industry, rather than just some parts of each region, this $2 million grant program will incentivize coordinated and collaborative marketing and promotion activities to drive larger scale initiatives and enable regional partnerships. This proposal would model tourism promotion already implemented in other states by incentivizing the creation of regional coalitions to work in unity for greater synergy and awareness building.
2) Co-op marketing grants ($3 Million)
This proposal offsets the loss of room tax for the Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) by temporarily supplementing their buy into current and expanded co-op marketing programs with the Department. The Department of Tourism is a marketing organization and the fastest way we can help our industry recover is to quickly infuse marketing that gets travelers back on the road. After all, heads don’t put themselves in beds.
Governor Evers’ support doesn’t end there. Today’s announcement comes just days after he announced a first piece of legislation, which included additional funding for struggling business and provisions for workers who recently filed for unemployment. The first package included $25 million for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, a repeal of the one-week waiting period for unemployment insurance, expanding and improving access to telehealth services, among many other proposals.
Today’s proposal shores up the unemployment fund to ensure businesses don’t see an increase in UI taxes as a result of the unusually high claims we are currently experiencing, secures funding for lifting the one-week waiting period for unemployment compensation for struggling workers and proposes $150 million (inclusive of the $25 million in the first package) for WEDC to provide relief to small businesses and workers.
Tourism has traditionally enjoyed strong bipartisan support and I am hoping that we can rely on that support now, more than ever. If you want to share your support for the tourism industry, I encourage you to reach out and discuss this legislation with your state representative and your state senator. It is very important that your elected leaders hear just how this public health emergency has impacted you.
COVID-19 Federal CARES ACT
This week also saw the enactment of a $2 trillion federal relief bill that will have tremendous impact upon the businesses that make up the tourism industry. If you represent a business, here are some helpful resources to help you access these federal funds:
- US Travel Association’s summary and eligibility guide can be found here.
- Small Business Association’s disaster loan assistance program can be found here.
- The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation continues to update their COVID-19 resources here.
I know that there is no single program that can make you whole and there is no one-size fits all approach to helping us get through this. But, together, we will get to the other side of this and we will be stronger than ever.