'We need your help': Tavern League, hospitality industry leaders beg Congress for COVID-19 relief

’We need your help’: Tavern League, hospitality industry leaders beg Congress for COVID-19 relief

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Wisconsin's hospitality industry leaders say they are beyond frustrated with the lack of help from the federal government. They're urging Congress to come together and find bipartisan solutions to save small businesses.

"We're still here and we need your help cause my members are hanging on by their fingernails," Chris Marsicano, president of the Tavern League, told CBS 58 in an interview on Thursday, Nov. 12.

In October, the powerful lobbying group sued Gov. Tony Evers' administration aiming to block the 25 percent capacity order.

Marsicano said state and city restrictions are unfairly targeting small bars and restaurants, while big box stores remain open.

"If you want to close everybody up, then close everybody. Close us all down, compensate us so that we have some money to feed our families, keep roofs over our heads and take care of our employees," Marsicano said.

Marsicano said he would like to see a federal grant program, tax and license relief and laxing of liquor takeout laws.

"We get the enormity of this situation, and we want to keep everybody safe -- our customers, our employees -- but we need help. Otherwise when this is over, a lot of us are not going to be here," he said.

Bill Elliott, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Hotel & Lodging Association, said the outlook for his industry isn't much better. He said federal assistance can't wait until after the lame duck-period in Congress.

"If we don't get the federal aid soon, you are gonna see a lot of lodging facilities in the state of Wisconsin closing, and that's places where our friends and family work, it's places where we go on vacation, places that bring in meetings and events to our state. So, it would be devastating for us," Elliott said.

He said there is a 38 percent occupancy rate right now. A recent survey of his members showed 47 percent of the hotels and lodging facilities could go under within six months and 20 percent could go under within three months.

Elliott said hotels need Congressional funding, but he said liability from COVID-19 is also an issue that he hopes lawmakers can address. 

Republican Congressman Bryan Steil told CBS 58 he believes the Paycheck Protection Program worked well and would like to see similar targeted aid in the future. Steil accused Democrats of playing partisan politics but said both parties have to work together to find a solution.

"What we need to do in Congress is act and provide specific relief to those who have been impacted through no faults of their own," Steil said.

Meanwhile, Democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin points blame at Senate Republicans for not taking up the HEROES Act passed by the House.

"We need to work in a bipartisan basis if we're going to get something through both houses and to the president's desk, and so Mitch McConnell needs to negotiate in good faith recognizing that," Baldwin said.

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