Greetings TIAK members! The countdown to the Kansas Tourism Conference is nearing the end. Thank you to everyone that has registered. I’m very much looking forward to seeing you in Liberal. Our line-up of speakers will bring us the latest information on the current condition of the hospitality industry. So as we gear up for those hefty conversations, I want to talk about federal funding coming down to Kansas.
This isn’t the first or last time that your association leaders will remind you how important it is for our industry to have healthy, positive relationships with our elected officials. Right now is a perfect example.
As you are already aware, the clock is ticking on this federal funding that has been set aside for the hospitality and tourism industry. I want us all to take advantage of every opportunity that’s offered to us.
Legislation that passed earlier this year known as the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 named the hospitality and tourism industry specifically as one of the targeted areas for the funds to be used. There is a lack of direction on specified uses, and the interpretation of how these funds can be used has largely been left to local or county governments with only some definitions provided by the US Treasury.
The amount of funding is based on population. For example, a county of approximately 20,000 population received $3.8 million, and a city of 10,000 received $1.4 million. There is obviously plenty to go around. However, keep in mind that these dollars can be used on other allowable expenditure categories ranging from infrastructure to drinking water distribution or storm water mitigation to childcare and mental health issues. Needless to say, there will be a long line of folks applying for these dollars.
Specifically in our industry, we can use the funding to “make whole” hard hit tourism budgets for DMO’s. Other uses could include a grant fund for tourism or hospitality-based businesses to cover additional expenses due to COVID or possibly assist in allowing tourism projects or programs that were cut short due to the pandemic and help get back on track.
All sounds great, right? The catch is, the decision on how these funds will eventually be spent is going to be decided mostly by city and county governments. I know of one county that has already committed 100% of the funding to infrastructure, while others are spreading it around to the different approved categories.
The important thing is to make sure that when the time comes, you have your seat at the table. Tourism was the hardest hit industry in 2020, and our revival has been slowed significantly with the recent variant strains.
For more information on the ARPA money, go to the Kansas Office of Recovery web site, Home – Kansas COVID-19 Response and Recovery (ks.gov). The second round of funding is available through the US Economic Development Administration, (EDA), found here EDA American Rescue Plan Programs | U.S. Economic Development Administration. There are seven different categories you can apply for a grant within this process, one specifically labeled Travel, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation.
Jim Zaleski, TIAK President
Serving at the pleasure of the membership