The hospitality industry will always find a way to survive. Its adaptability to overcome challenges, big and small, has created a work force who learned to find solutions regardless of what is thrown at them. The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association (MRLA) has taken its cue from you, and we have targeted our efforts during this rebuilding towards flexibility, forbearance, forgiveness, and infusion in the policies we help draft, the legislation we help guide, and the recommendations we make on your behalf.
Since this industry was shut down, and as it crawls toward full reintegration, the MRLA has been focused on partnering with local, state, and federal governments to enact policies that allow you to operate during this national pandemic.
These efforts resulted in one of the most comprehensive cocktails-to go-programs in the country being signed into law. A new partnership between the hospitality industry and local governments was created which allowed for the creation of social districts that encouraged patronage to local businesses while maintaining appropriate social distancing. Due to renewed and improved collaboration with the Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC), MRLA established an expedited process for critical permits such as adding a bar, securing a Specially Designated Merchant (SDM) License, and adding outdoor seating. Additionally, recognizing that off-premises license holders have seen an increase in sales during the shutdown, on-premises licensees will enjoy an increased discount rate of 23 percent on all purchases from the MLCC until July of 2021.
Lastly, we could not forget how the hard-working hospitality employees have been impacted by this disaster. MRLA was successful in procuring $2.5 million in grants which employees can apply for up to $500 in financial assistance. This was a lot to accomplish, and we could not have done it without working collaboratively with the legislative and executive branches.
A series of bills would have allowed for payment plans to be established for sales, use, and withholding taxes, and another would have allowed for deferment of summer property taxes for those who were financially impacted by COVID-19. Unfortunately, despite gaining bi-partisan support, they were vetoed by the governor when the bills reached her desk.
The comeback for the hospitality industry will likely take longer than any other industry. Based on that, the MRLA, in partnership with like-minded business groups, will seek increased liability protections for restaurants and hotels that meet or exceed safety regulations enacted via executive order. We are also seeking a 90-day ban on commercial foreclosures, prospective business interruption insurance, and extending the hold harmless provisions for unemployment insurance indefinitely. These are broad-based initiatives that will benefit the entire business community, including the hospitality sector. Additional industry-specific goals include: continuation of progress to require third-party delivery to ask for permission to list restaurants on their website/app, securing a consistent and reliable funding source for Pure Michigan by incorporating short-term rentals into the process, and transferring responsibility for all inspections to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to ensure uniformity in enforcement.
This was an opportunity for us to serve you, and we appreciate your trust in allowing us to do so during such a precarious time. There is more to do to ensure as many businesses as possible survive this crisis and are able to thrive moving forward. The MRLA is here championing your priorities now, and for many years to come.