Illinois hotel officials push for federal funds to aid recovery | Illinois

(The Center Square) — Pandemic-related job losses have decimated Illinois’ hospitality industry, and now officials are asking for help.

The Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association is calling on lawmakers to pass the Hotel Jobs Stimulus Plan, which would allocate state-held federal funds to hotels to help rehire workers.

Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association President and CEO Michael Jacobson said the hospitality industry has been left behind.

“Airlines have had multiple rounds of support, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, the Save Our Stages Act for performance venues,” Jacobson said. “Hotels are one of, if not the only hospitality sector that does not have a dedicated support program from the federal government.”

Nationally, hotels recorded losses of $111.8 billion related to room bookings and saw declines in convention and event rentals.

According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, Illinois lost 40% of its hotel jobs between 2019 and 2021.

The hotel jobs stimulus plan will allocate $250 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds held by the state of Illinois to provide a one-time $1,500 per room grant for every hotel in the ‘Illinois. Eight percent of the funding is expected to be used for payroll costs, including employee salaries and benefits.

Darin Dame, general manager and co-partner of SpringHill Suites by Marriott in Springfield, said it will take years for hotel operators to recover from the pandemic.

“While it is impossible to compensate for the losses of the past two years, the support requested in this proposal will provide much needed stability to our hotel and our industry,” said Dame.

While Illinois’ hospitality industry struggles to come back, there are other parts of the country where there has been a strong rebound.

According to HospitalityNet, 11 markets hit pandemic-era occupancy highs, including nine in Florida, which ended its COVID-related restrictions long before Illinois.

Orlando, the nation’s second largest market by supply, posted an occupancy rate of 85.9% in the last week of February. This was the highest occupancy rate since February 2020. The two non-Florida markets that hit pandemic-era highs were in Arizona and California.

Jacobson said some of the COVID-19 mitigations like vaccine passports and mask mandates in Chicago are hurting business. Once those mandates are lifted, he hopes to attract congresses to Illinois. When hotels suffer, state and local governments in Illinois also suffer, he said.

“The state lost $5.4 billion in room revenue between 2020 and 2021 combined, and included more than $1 billion in lost tax revenue for state and local municipalities,” Jacobson said.

Tax revenue for hotel operators this year is still 30% below pre-pandemic totals in 2019 and is expected to remain there for the foreseeable future, according to the Illinois Department of Revenue.

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