Delivering Relief for the Hospitality Industry
A Government Affairs Update
Just over a year ago, our industry witnessed a simple yet powerful force for good and something that does not happen nearly enough: government at all levels cast aside partisan politics, ignored what letters were behind their colleagues’ names and delivered relief on behalf of a nation, state and industry in dire need. While there are imperfect aspects to some of this legislation, it showed what can be accomplished when everyone works together. Now, over a year later, our industry needs more of this bipartisan collaboration. As we are surrounded by the sights and sounds of spring and quickly move into a busy summer season, the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association (MRLA) is working diligently in Lansing and with our national partners in Washington D.C. to convey the importance to come together and focus on sound policy.
The economic devastation caused by COVID-19 is far from over. Here in Michigan numbers are surging. Our members on the restaurant side, are still adhering to capacity limits and curfews. On the event and banquet side, business owners stand ready to prove they can operate safely as they continue to lose business to neighboring states and face the reality that another season of business could soon be gone.
In Lansing, the MRLA secured victories on critical items such as cocktails-to-go, the creations of social zones, tens of millions in relief funds for business owners and employees, securing Pure Michigan funding, and actively working with the administration on changes to mandates.
Currently, two of MRLA’s top priorities are caught in partisan gridlock but has seen some movement in recent weeks. This is proposed license fee relief for the industry and property tax relief.
License Fee Relief
A three-bill package that has cleared the Michigan Senate would help business owners by forgiving or reimbursing health and food licenses, as well as liquor license fees. This legislation - that was initiated by the MRLA - also extended the on-premises discount rate of 23% when purchasing from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission through 2023. It was previously set to expire this year.
Senate Bill 230: This bill would waive liquor license fees for 2021 and extend the discount rate when purchasing from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission to 23%. This bill will now advance to the Michigan House of Representatives.
Senate Bills 353 and 354: These bills would allow for health and food licenses to be waived or reimbursed if they have already been paid. MRLA is actively working with bill sponsor Sen. Curt Vanderwall on how the implementation of the reimbursement will work in order to hold local governments harmless.
These three initiatives are all pieces of the MRLA’s Mission to Save Hospitality 2.0. The next step in the legislative process will be for the Michigan House of Representatives to act on this package of bills.
Property Tax Relief
At the beginning of March, the Michigan House and Senate passed a package of COVID Relief Bills that secured relief in the form of $300 million for a property tax relief program. In order to qualify for property tax relief, grants would be subject to certifying a reduction in quarterly gross receipts in 2020 relative to 2019 and includes 15 different types of businesses. Those most relevant to MRLA membership are entertainment venues, meeting spaces, food service establishments, as well as hotels and bed and breakfasts. Unfortunately, this program was part of the line-item veto that the administration said was due to lack of collaboration. Currently, this initiative still stands in a gridlock in Lansing. The MRLA continues to hold meeting with both sides of the aisle to get this initiative across the finish line.
Early this year, on two separate occasions, bi-partisan legislation that would have provided this relief was vetoed by Governor Whitmer citing lack of negotiation by the legislature as the reason for those vetoes. While these vetoes were disappointing, it has not and will not deter MLRA from the mission of delivering this relief for the industry.
While these vetoes are disappointing, it is just one of many examples of politics getting in the way of good and necessary policy. The MRLA is not advocating that there should not be serious debate on how to accomplish responsible and targeted economic relief. In fact, we are calling for the exact opposite. It is time for legislative leaders and the governor’s office to do the peoples’ work. It is time to get into a room together and negotiate a deal that both sides will publicly support. This will require compromise and hopefully this meeting bolsters trust between two critical branches of our state government. This is a relationship that will be critical in spending the influx of dollars from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan and to continue to navigate the landscape of a post COVID-19 world. MRLA stands ready to do anything in our power to help to facilitate this collaboration in order to deliver for Michigan’s second largest employer.
American Rescue Plan Act: Opportunities for Hospitality Industry Relief and Recovery Policy Options
On May 3, the MRLA released public policy proposals to address how the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds Michigan received for hospitality industry relief efforts could be most effectively used. The ARPA, which was signed into law by President Biden on March 11, provides $5.7 billion to the state of Michigan and another $4.4 billion to Michigan cities and counties to address the fiscal impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. While the bill broadly references support for impacted small businesses as a qualifying recipient of the ARPA funding, only the “travel, tourism and hospitality” industry was singled out as a targeted recipient of appropriations made to state and local governments.
The MRLA has devised a series of strategic public policy proposals to help the state’s $40 billion hospitality industry recover from the pandemic, sustain business, and thrive in the future. The proposals address hospitality businesses, including restaurants, hotels and banquet facilities, as well as workforce development.
Each of the MRLA’s public policy proposals was crafted to meet one of three primary objectives:
Read the full MRLA public policy proposals at mlra.org/arpa.
The MRLA has been working full steam ahead for the past fourteen months to deliver COVID-19 relief through a variety of bills and initiatives proposed and negotiated with the Michigan legislature and governor’s office. This will continue until we see our industry recovering and with the appropriate support it needs and deserves.