ALBERT LEA, Minnesota - Around this time of year, businesses like restaurants, hotels, bed and breakfasts and campgrounds are typically preparing for a swarm of visitors during the summer months.
But the pandemic has hit many of these businesses to the point where they many be forced to close if relief isn't given.
Hospitality Minnesota, a trade association that represents around 2,000 restaurants, lodging, conference centers, outfitters and other businesses dedicated to hospitality, is working with a coalition of other such oriented organizations like the Community of Minnesota Resorts and the Craft Brewers Guild to call on federal and state government leaders to provide an economic relief package to help save this critical industry.
At the current pace, about half of these businesses would close permanently by July, according to a recent survey by Hospitality Minnesota. In addition, around 14% of food service businesses have likely already closed.
"For some of these businesses, as you well know, they're seasonal. We have 100 days of summer that many of these businesses have to collect revenue, and they have already lost a month of that revenue, and the clock is ticking."
Presiden and CEO Liz Rammer says the continued struggles can have a ripple effect if something isn't done.
"It's the local coffee shop, the local place where we go to for a meal, it's your campground, all the places that you like to go outside with resorts, and all the activities based on events. It affects everybody."
While many restaurants have adapted by utilizing drive-thru and pick up service, it's not a long term solution.
"They're barely making it work right now, they've had to furlough most of their staff, and they're really operating on a skeleton budget right now."
The coalition's 6-point plan includes fixing the paycheck protection program by extending it beyond June 30th and add additional funding to it, expand the Small Business Emergency Loan program by $120 million, waive sales tax payments through October, delay May 15th property tax payments for businesses that are impacted, establish a 90-day forbearance and rent abatement program, and suspend all regulatory fees through December 2020.
The hospitality industry provides over 300,000 jobs in Minnesota, and generates about 18% of the state's sales tax. Without that, each Minnesota family would have to pay an additional $625 per year.