Tampa, FL (April 28, 2020) – Hoteliers throughout the Tampa Bay area are calling for much needed assistance that will enable employees laid off from the local lodging industry due to the threat of the corona-virus to quickly qualify for state unemployment assistance, as well as access federal subsidies, that can help pay for housing costs, grocery bills, medical supplies and more until hotels re-open for business and rehire their staffs.
Ron McAnaugh, President of the Hillsborough County Hotel Motel Association (HCHMA) and general manager of the Marriott Water Street Tampa Hotel, and Bob Morrison, HCHMA Executive Director, will be calling on Tampa Bay’s elected officials to help them free up financial resources that frustrated unemployed workers have been waiting weeks to collect.
The Florida Department of Employment Opportunity’s CONNECT website system has been plagued by software glitches and overwhelmed by the volume of claims leaving many who have filed with nothing to show for their efforts for weeks or even months. The CARES act, a federally funded corona-virus relief package that supplements state unemployment and increases jobless pay by $600 a week, previously required recipients to have successfully been processed through the unemployment office but that restriction has been lifted. Recent changes, though steps in the right direction, have left the unprocessed devastated.
“As employers, our hotel general managers have done everything that they can do to assist these valued employees. Many have been with our organizations for years and have become like family to us,” said McAnaugh. “We need answers and immediate action so that when we get calls asking us what they can do or where they can turn for help, we can give them the information they need and help them provide for themselves and their families. This is a devastating and emotional issue for them as well as for us.”
Hotel workers were among the first wave of layoffs when the spread of COVID-19 forced businesses to temporarily shut down. When restrictions are lifted and hotels are ready to reopen, the hospitality industry will struggle to fully re-staff and resume operations.
“We need help expediting unemployment payments for these employees who so badly need to purchase basics like food and will face possible eviction if they can’t cover deferred rent payments when restrictions are lifted and evictions are allowed,” said Morrison. “We need our entire legislative delegation to speak up, stand with us and find a way to help make these funds available ASAP.”
HCHMA members will be contacting elected officials calling for their help to provide alternate strategies to help all workers, especially laid off hospitality workers, who have been unable to successfully file for unemployment or have been waiting for their claims to be processed without any idea of when money will arrive.
Action items advocated by HCHMA are as follows:
- Create a collective effort by state elected officials to insist that immediate assistance be provided to hospitality employees so that their claim status can be confirmed, the process completed without further delay and funds dispersed.
- Insist upon a State Communication Plan that provides daily updated information about accessing federal CARE funds now that the process has been streamlined. Elements could include a separate call center or online FAQ with step-by-step instructions are possible parts of a more robust communication strategy.
The hospitality industry represents a vital workforce that contributes to the economic well-being of the entire bay area. Information compiled by Visit Tampa Bay indicates that every dollar spent by area visitors generates about 30 cents for local hotels, leaving roughly 70 cents per dollar that directly impacts other local businesses like restaurants, retailers, hotel suppliers and transportation companies, among others.
“The hospitality industry is a revenue generator within our community. While a rebound strategy is critical, how our member employees are treated NOW reflects their role in the state’s overall future recovery formula.,” said Morrison.
The Hillsborough County Hotel & Motel Association is a membership-based organization that represents leading hotels, motels and resorts. First organized in 1937, HCHMA’s membership include owners and managers of hotels, motels and resorts, attractions and venues that are beneficiaries of the Tourist Development Tax allocated within Hillsborough County and businesses that provide products and services to the hospitality industry. For more information, go to hotelsintampabay.com.
Mary Lou Janson