2022 Legislative Priorities
A Government Affairs Update
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The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association (MRLA) has been hard at work since day one of 2022. The MRLA hopes that this year ushers in a reality where COVID-19 will no longer be the focal point of our personal and professional lives. It is evident that the impacts of COVID-19 have spread overwhelming feelings of exhaustion and frustration throughout every sector of the hospitality industry and the MRLA knows there is still much to be accomplished throughout the year. While additional issues will undoubtedly arise, the MRLA Government Affairs department is working diligently to advocate and provide relief that is long overdue. Below is a summary of key issues that the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association will focus on this year.
Additional Targeted Relief
The Michigan Legislature has already appropriated billions of dollars in COVID-19 relief funding. These actions have resulted in relief for impacted employees and business owners. However, there are still billions of dollars that need to be appropriated by the end of 2024. Any funds not spent at that point will be returned to the Federal Government. While the efforts of the legislature are appreciated, Michigan’s hospitality industry was the hardest hit, and the time to deliver an industry specific relief package is now. In the coming weeks, the MRLA will continue to advocate for industry specific relief focused on the following priorities:
Short-Term Rental Reform
It has never been the intention of the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association to ban short-term rentals. They play a critical role in Michigan’s tourism ecosystem and their presence will only continue to grow. As this expansion continues, however, leveling the playing field between short-term rentals and traditional lodging facilities will be critical. In order to level the playing field, the MRLA will be actively seeking amendments to currently introduced legislation that will establish tax parity, create a registry of all short-term rentals, strengthen platform accountability, and limit the number of short-term rentals that can be owned per community.
Raise the Wage Ballot Initiative
For the third time in the last eight years, out-of-state interests have filed to eventually raise Michigan’s minimum wage to $15 and eliminate the tip credit. This initiative also eliminates different wages for trainees and individuals with disabilities. Similar to previous years, the funding for this initiative is from out of state. While a few procedural steps still need to be taken, the MRLA anticipates the group will begin gathering signatures in the coming weeks. Petitioners will have approximately 90 days to gather 340,047 valid signatures which means that they will need to gather close to 500,000 actual signatures. This will be an uphill battle due to an unstable labor market and multiple competing ballot initiatives. This is not an unfamiliar fight to MRLA, and the groundwork has already been laid to win this battle once again.
Restaurant Revitalization Fund Recapitalization
Last year, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) was launched and $28.6 billion was allocated to help restaurants impacted by COVID-19 and government mandated closures. As expected, the demand for these funds far outpaced supply, and the vast majority of applicants were not awarded anything. Since then, the political will to recapitalize RRF has ebbed and flowed as COVID numbers did the same.
The success of RRF is above rebuke. In Michigan alone, it saved more than 35,000 jobs and helped 94 percent of recipients keep their businesses open. The same survey found that 43 percent who did not receive RRF grants will not be in business beyond the pandemic and 97 percent said a future grant would allow them to retain or hire back temporarily laid-off employees. This data, paired with the fact that the rise of Omicron has caused many to simply stay home and specifically avoid indoor dining, has caused leaders in Washington D.C. to renew conversations on a recapitalization of RRF funds. The MRLA will continue to work with members of the Michigan delegation and the National Restaurant Association (NRA) to continue to advocate for increased RRF funding.
As we approach the two-year mark of the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Michigan and the first government mandated shutdown, our focus has not changed. The MRLA continues to exhaust every avenue possible for your businesses to survive, so that they will soon thrive again. While hope remains that the end of a COVID-19 dominated world is near, the MRLA stands ready to serve no matter what comes next.