SAM Magazine—March 25, 2020, Lakewood, Colo.—In response to the significant industry impacts of COVID-19, NSAA, in conjunction with its state and regional ski association partners, has ramped up its federal advocacy efforts.
According NSAA marketing and communications director Adrienne Isaac, the primary focus of NSAA’s current work is to ensure that the ski industry, particularly small businesses and small ski areas, will have access to specifically earmarked funds in the federal COVID-19 stimulus packages.
Economic relief proposals are being put forward by Congress in several phases. Phase 1 was the $8.3 billion emergency spending bill signed on March 5, covering vaccine research, preparedness funding, etc. Phase 2, called the Families First Coronavirus Act, was enacted March 19 to ensure paid sick leave and expanded family leave and provide tax relief provisions for some businesses.
Phase 3 is the $2 trillion stimulus package being considered in the Senate today and expected to head to the House by Thursday, to provide economic relief for individuals, the unemployed, airlines, and businesses of all sizes. A future phase 4 is likely to extend economic relief measures not covered in phase 3.
In its Monday Capitol Watch report, NSAA suggested that there would be few travel industry carveouts in the forthcoming phase 3 stimulus package, other than $32 billion in grants set aside for the airline industry. Isaac noted that the proposed phase 3 legislation focuses primarily on funding unemployment costs, funding for small business loans (NSAA has been working to expand the definition of small business to the benefit of the ski industry) and direct economic relief for the U.S. workforce.
NSAA is now focusing its efforts on the forthcoming phase 4 package, which will likely be considered after the Congressional recess ends in April.
For phase 4 legislation, NSAA is focusing specifically on pushing for payroll tax relief for both employers and employees; zero or low-interest loans, and outright small business loan forgiveness for funds used to keep employees on payroll and cover pre-existing health care benefits; and the waiver of USFS ski area permit fees through 2021, along with retention of a percentage of those fees in local Forest Service offices (consistent with S. 1723/H.R. 2509).
The aim, according to Isaac, is to push for measures that will help ease some of the financial burden of increased costs incurred due to changing employment requirements, the stoppage in business, and future economic uncertainty. “It will be imperative that our industry receives this economic relief, especially being weather-dependent businesses which rely on visitation and advance sales for cash flow,” said Isaac.
NSAA’s lobbying efforts have met with some success. Prior to last Thursday’s passage of the Families First Coronavirus Act, NSAA reached out to key ski state Congressional delegations, advocating for 100 percent tax relief for businesses for any paid sick leave or family leave incurred. That measure ended up in the final bill, covering all employers with less than 500 employees. NSAA has also more broadly been pushing for regulatory relief on immigrant visas, an expanded definition of “small business” under SBA rules, the suspension of federal payroll taxes, and the expansion of eligibility requirements for Farm Bill grants to include for-profit businesses. There are a number of things ski areas can do as the industry waits to see what relief measures will be put into place. NSAA has put together a list of 10 actions ski areas can take to respond to COVID-19.