Omicron Surge Spurs New Covid-19 Relief Push in Congress
The Wall Street Journal
By Brody Mullins
January 16, 2022
WASHINGTON—Hotels, fitness clubs, tour bus companies and minor league ball clubs are part of a long line of businesses seeking billions of dollars in new Covid-19 relief aid—if they can overcome opposition from many Republicans who say Congress has already given enough.
Lobbyists for the businesses say their campaign has taken on new urgency as the Omicron variant sweeps across the country, forcing many companies to scale back or shut down operations as employees call in sick and customers cancel orders and reservations.
A few Republican lawmakers support more relief funding for targeted industries, but most are generally opposed to spending more funds to help struggling businesses. These opponents say that the government has already provided sufficient relief, including more than $900 billion through the Paycheck Protection Program, and that more government spending will fuel inflation and budget deficits.
The American Bus Association is seeking $6 billion for its members, including companies that provide airport shuttle services, tours, charters and school bus transportation.
The industry received $2 billion in federal relief funds from Congress under a Covid-19 relief package in late 2020, but Peter Pantuso, the trade group’s president, said it covered just a fraction of the industry’s losses.
Bus industry revenue fell to $2.6 billion in 2020, he said, from $15.3 billion the year before. Last year revenue began to recover until the Delta and Omicron variants prompted new rounds of cancellations of reservations for tour buses.
“We started to see a bit of a recovery and then everything shut down and started going the other way,” Mr. Pantuso said.