ASTA: Unclear if “Lame Duck” Congress Passes New COVID Assistance

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As the United States presidential election continues into Day 4, the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) has weighed in, saying, “without knowing the presidential election result, it is impossible to say with certainty how the outcome will impact the policy priorities ASTA is pursuing on behalf of our members.”

The association's top priority, according to a statement shared with Travel Agent by Eben Peck, EVP, advocacy, ASTA, is the passage of a new coronavirus (COVID-19) relief bill as quickly as possible. In a letter sent to Congressional leadership on Monday, prior to Election Day, Peck said that more than 9 in 10 of member travel agencies’ business income is down at least 75 percent compared to 2019. Even factoring in the relief programs created by the CARES Act, close to 64 percent of travel agencies have laid off at least half their staff, he added.

In the next round of COVID-19 relief, ASTA is asking for inclusion of ticket agents in the Airline Payroll Support Program, the passing of the RESTART Act and continued assistance to unemployed workers.

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The issue: Peck says “it’s not clear at this point whether the post-election “lame duck” Congressional session will provide a favorable environment for quick action on this front or whether this work stalls until 2021.” Other issues that will be affected by the election that ASTA’s following include the outlook for cruising, consistent international and state rules on COVID testing versus quarantines, vaccine development and distribution and independent contractor regulations.

There is some good news, however. Peck also noted that, as things look now in Congressional races, there was not much change among the key committees that ASTA regularly engages, such as the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Additionally, 30 of the 31 legislators from both parties supported by ASTA’s political action committee (ASTAPAC) won their elections—a 97 percent win rate.

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