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Failure to contain pandemic continues to wreak havoc for tourism workers

By: Cindy Rosenwald | Published: 9/10/2020 in the Nashua Telegraph.

You could be forgiven if Nashua isn’t the first place that comes to your mind when you think of New Hampshire tourism, even if we do value our Historic District and think people should visit. But while you don’t come to Nashua to go to the beach, or to see fall foliage, chances are better than you might think that you’re stopping at a restaurant, or a hotel, or a shop around the state powered by Nashua workers.

Tourism is a foundational part of our economy here in the Granite State, and here in the Nashua area, including my Senate district, there are over 10,000 Granite Staters that work in our state’s expansive tourism industry. That’s nearly 10 percent of our area’s nonfarm employment. Under normal circumstances, we are proud to welcome millions to experience our state’s natural beauty in all seasons, and local economies like Nashua’s reap the benefits of tourists looking for lodging, food, and shopping.

This year, however, is different. Because of Donald Trump’s failed leadership during the coronavirus pandemic and his weak recovery effort, that piece of our economic foundation has been damaged. While New Hampshire may be doing a better job than most states at weathering the virus, that does not help much for an industry dependent on people traveling. Trust me, our state’s tourist industry is feeling the pain; statewide, nearly a third of the industry’s jobs have gone since the start of the year. Here in the Nashua area, we’ve still seen a staggering decline of more than 21 percent of the net number of workers in that sector as of July. These workers need help, and Donald Trump is totally unprepared to provide it.

We all agree that the coronavirus pandemic is a global problem, but there’s no reason that it had to be this bad. The Trump administration could have taken decisive action to scale up widespread and continuous testing to help us contain the spread of COVID-19. Instead he downplayed the risks, even as he knew the consequences could be disastrous.

Now, six months on, the pandemic is far from contained and the economic recovery has been mixed at best and catastrophic at worst. Tourism has declined precipitously — it’s hard to blame people for not wanting to plan family travel when a deadly airborne disease is raging — and that means that working people in the industry have been hung out to dry.

This loss is a direct result of the dollars simply not coming into our state at the level they would be if a deadly pandemic was not still raging. If you look at data produced by the Department of Revenue Administration, the Room and Meal tax revenue is down considerably. This is simple: there are fewer customers because this pandemic is not yet under control.

Typically, this is when you’d expect the president to take charge and create a plan to get our economy going again. But our “dealmaker in chief” ended up sitting on Twitter while expanded unemployment benefits that were giving our economy a jolt have dried up. And his Paycheck Protection Program, like so many other Trump policies, has just been a giveaway to his wealthy donors and golf partners, favoring major corporations instead of mom-and-pop shops like many tourism and recreation businesses in New Hampshire.

This series of incompetent missteps is a clear signal that we need to make a change at the top, firing Donald Trump and hiring Joe Biden.

Biden knows the task of rebuilding will be an enormous challenge but also an opportunity. Joe Biden has said time and again that in this recovery we need to build back better, for the future. Biden also would not see unemployment benefits as a political prop, pushing for more financial support in sectors like hospitality that we know have been hardest hit.

Rebuilding from a public-health-driven economic calamity without any precedent will take every level of government working together. President Trump’s broken promises amid the coronavirus response prove he’s simply not up to the task. Now more than ever, workers are counting on leaders in government who are ready to figure out solutions.

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