VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - More than 800 Virginia businesses in the tourism and hospitality industry are asking the General Assembly to designate nearly $300 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan to them.
Their request comes ahead of the General Assembly meeting in Richmond next week for a special session where they will hammer out the budget. Virginia received more than $4 billion from the law passed by Congress earlier this year.
Those in the tourism and hospitality industry say they they've been particularly hit hard by the pandemic, estimating one in five restaurants has closed. The industry is also having trouble finding new staff and says they're facing increased costs.
"You know, we're down over 50% year over year. We're asking the General Assembly for help," said John Zirkle, the president of the Virginia Beach Hotel Association, when comparing to 2020 to 2019.
He says 2021 has improved some, but the beginning of the year was still a struggle.
"That money would go towards helping restaurants, hotels and attractions get out of debt."
Oceanfront hotels are expecting a busy weekend this weekend, but are worried about the fall.
"I just caution people when you look around and you see full hotels and full restaurants in July, remember how they looked in March. Remember how they potentially are going to look in September, October, November," Zirkle said.
Earlier this month, Gov. Ralph Northam pledged a package of more than $350 million for business and tourism recovery, but tourism and hospitality insiders worry the money is not specifically targeted enough to the tourism industry.
"As much as anything, we just want to make sure that the $300 million that was announced by the governor is 100% dedicated to the hospitality and tourism industry," said Eric Terry, the president of the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging and Travel Association.
The Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus also is leading to uncertainty for the industry.
"Business travelers have not come back at all yet. Groups and conventions have not come back at all yet," said Zirkle.