Scavello Chairs Hearing on Impact of COVID-19 Business Closures on Tourism and Hospitality Employers

HARRISBURG – Senator Mario Scavello (R-40) chaired a virtual public hearing Tuesday on the economic impact of COVID-19 business closures on tourism and hospitality employers.

The Senate Majority Policy Committee heard from representatives of restaurants, hotels, tourist destinations and others from across the 40th Senatorial District and the commonwealth.

“The business closures aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19 had a devastating effect on businesses and workers across the board, but hit the tourism and hospitality sectors especially hard,” said Scavello. “This hearing brought together a broad array of employers from across Pennsylvania to share their first-hand experience and ideas for how to safely move forward.”

Independent Fiscal Office Director Matthew Knittel told the committee that small business revenue in the leisure-hospitality sector is down 55 percent since January 2020, compared to 33 percent for all small businesses.

Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President Gina Martens said 12 Lehigh Valley member restaurants have closed as a result of pandemic-related restrictions. Her organization supports legislation to suspend the remittance of sales tax on food and beverages for restaurants and bars until they are allowed to have 100-percent capacity again.

Pocono region tourism employs over 35,000 individuals and generates over $282 million in state and local tax revenues yearly and contributes over 64 percent of the regions total labor income. Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau President and CEO Chris Barrett testified that during March of 2020 tens of thousands of individuals in the Pocono hospitality industry lost their jobs literally overnight.

He told the committee that lack of communication in the form of clear guidelines surrounding the Wolf administration’s mitigation plans was an incredible source of stress and anxiety for thousands of individuals in the Pocono Mountains.

Joseph J. Ruvane, co-founder of Barley Creek Brewing Company in Tannersville, offered hopeful testimony and a request. With the vaccine rollout and increased dining capacity limits to 75 percent, businesses like his can grow stronger. Still, he said, further assistance from the state Department of Community and Economic Development would be appreciated.

You can view the hearing and read complete testimony here.

CONTACT: Christine Zubeck czubeck@pasen.gov (717) 787-6123