In an interview today with Fox News, Acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Chad Wolf answered a question that may be on many Americans’ minds since the federal government began instituting travel bans and closing U.S. borders, and as multiple state and city officials have issued “stay at home” orders to their residents in an effort to control the transmission of the coronavirus-outbreak” target=”_self” rel=”nofollow noopener noreferrer”>COVID-19 virus.
Wolf said that the Trump administration has no plans at this time for a full shutdown of domestic travel within the U.S. or for restricting the entire nation’s movements, coronavirus-shutdowns/2020/03/22/id/959415/” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow noopener noreferrer”>Newsmax revealed.
“There has been a number of governors, New York and California, that have taken the extra step and imposed additional strict measures,” he explained. Wolf said that the White House fully supports the tighter restrictions and community lockdowns being imposed in areas where COVID-19 case numbers are spiking, or there is a high potential for community spread of the virus simply because of population density.
He said that, in those parts of the country where the number of coronavirus cases is spiking, officials are working with federal authorities—the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Health and Human Services (HHS) Department and the Coronavirus Task Force—to determine appropriate measures.
“We will continue to look at that and if we see we need to put targeted travel restrictions in place we will do that,” Wolf explained. “I will say there’s no immediate plans as of right now for any widespread travel restrictions.”
For now, he said, “We’re focusing on those states and those localities that, again, have widespread community transmission—so, New York, California, Washington.” The approach, he said, is to implement “more aggressive measures” in these areas so that, hopefully, they won’t need to be enforced elsewhere in the country later on as the course of the epidemic continues.
“We continue to evaluate this, really, on a day-by-day, week-by-week basis,” Wolf commented.
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Travel Industry Lauds Passage of Paycheck Protection Program Reform Bill
The U.S. Senate passed the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Flexibility Act on Wednesday, sending it to President Donald Trump’s desk for final approval.
The reform bill provides business owners with additional flexibility and more time to utilize loan money and still be forgiven under the PPP established to provide economic relief in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The travel industry has been quick to commend lawmakers. The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) is in full support having advocated for the improvements behind the scenes.
“We commend the Senate for passing the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act (H.R. 7010), which would change PPP loan terms—in some cases retroactively—in a number of ways ASTA has advocated for, including five-year loan terms, reducing the requirement that 75 percent of the loan must go to payroll to get forgiveness, allowing forgivable expense over 24 weeks (as opposed to the current eight) and allowing companies to restore headcount without jeopardizing forgiveness by the end of the year (versus the current June 30),” Eben Peck, EVP Advocacy, ASTA, said in a statement.
“While the PPP will remain complex, this bill gives more flexibility to PPP recipients and increases the chances that loans can be fully forgiven,” Peck concluded.
The U.S. Travel Association also wasted no time praising the decision, calling it an “important step.”
“The PPP changes passed by both chambers are another important step in providing relief to small businesses that otherwise will not survive until the economic recovery phase,” added U.S. Travel’s Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes. “The modification to the portion of funds that can be used for non-payroll expenses is especially crucial to travel-related small businesses, which have comparatively high capital overhead but virtually zero incoming revenue because of the necessary measures in place to stem the spread of the pandemic.”
U.S. Travel still believes that there’s more work to be done to ensure a successful recovery. The organization is encouraging officials to extend PPP eligibility to non-profit and quasi-governmental entities responsible for driving local and regional economic development.
“Like the businesses they serve, the finances of these non-profits have been devastated by the standstill in travel and tourism, and the moment of recovery will be moot unless they can keep their lights on to take advantage of the return in travel demand,” Barnes stated. “We urge leaders to move urgently to enact the next phase of coronavirus response legislation, which is absolutely vital to the future of the travel and tourism industry, and to prioritize expanding eligibility to those most hard hit by this pandemic such as destination marketing organizations.”
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