ASTA has begun preparing nearly 250 travel advisors to take on Capitol Hill later this month and enlist support from their legislators to reinstate the Employee Retention Tax Credit.

The Society’s annual congressional fly-in, ASTA Legislative Day, will be held June 21-22 in Washington. Last week, Eben Peck and Jessica Klement, the society’s executive vice president of advocacy and vice president of advocacy, respectively, held a webinar for participants to discuss logistics and the issues at hand.

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Initially, ASTA was planning on tackling two issues with legislators, the first being the CDC’s rule requiring inbound travelers to provide proof of a negative Covid test. That rule has since been rescinded. Klement said ASTA is currently debating whether it will add another issue to discuss with legislators.

 The other issue at hand is asking legislators to co-sponsor the House or Senate bill that would reinstate the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC), or thank them if they are already a co-sponsor.

The ERTC stems from the Cares Act of 2020. It provided a tax credit to employers of up to $7,000 per employee, per quarter, so long as their business had been reduced by at least 20% compared to 2019. However, when the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was passed last year, the ERTC expired on Sept. 30, 2021, instead of Dec. 31.

When other Covid relief programs had expired, Peck said, the ERTC was still proving helpful to agencies.

“And then the rug was pulled out from under them,” he said.

How ASTA chooses lobbying issues

ASTA picks the issues members push during Legislative Day by using a checklist, Peck said; not every box has to be checked for every issue, but the Society tries to fulfil as many as possible. To be considered, an issue should be actionable, so constituents have an ask for their legislators; it should be easily understood and explained; it should be relevant to all ASTA member business models; and the issue should be bipartisan.

In addition to focusing on the issues at hand, Peck encouraged advisors to educate members of Congress and their staffers on what travel advisors do for a living. 

“It’s important to spend some time educating these mostly young people on what you do for a living,” Peck said. “You know, Covid has changed everything in terms of our industry. We certainly feel it.”

Citing ASTA member surveys, he said, the average agency revenue loss in 2020 was 82%. It got a little bit better in 2021 at 71%. Now, agencies are stuck dealing with complex and changing travel regulations.

“A good advocate is a storyteller,” Peck said, encouraging advisors to prepare in advance their most compelling Covid travel story to share.

This year, attendees will have a day of training on June 21, followed by heading to the Hill for meetings on June 22. So far, Peck said, 234 people from 47 states will attend. Only three states are missing: Alaska, New Hampshire and South Dakota. If there are any interested parties from those states, Peck said, ASTA has a scholarship program that could help them get to Washington.

“We would love to get all 50 states here,” Peck said.

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