Chuck Edwards, two BCTDA members propose $5M recovery fund for tourism businesses

Press release from Sen. Chuck Edwards:

Senator Chuck Edwards (R-Henderson), along with Buncombe County Commissioner and TDA Board Member, Joe Belcher, and TDA Board Chair, Gary Froeba, announce a collaborative effort to jump-start Buncombe County Tourism and restore critical jobs impacted by COVID-19.

In response to the COVID-19 health crisis, next week, Senator Edwards will file legislation titled “Buncombe County Tourism Jobs Recovery Act.” This legislation is designed to provide financial assistance to tourism-related businesses facing unprecedented challenges impacted by the stay-at-home orders, and in effect, stopped the tourist industry in its tracks.

Buncombe County TDA will establish a Job Recovery Fund providing $5M in emergency grant funding available for Buncombe County tourism-related small businesses and non-profit organizations affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Eligible applicants can receive up to $50,000 directed toward the restart of their business once the recovery begins, and it is safe to operate or resume full operations, in turn providing jobs and allowing workers to return to the workforce.

“This collaborative effort on the part of the Buncombe County tourist industry and Asheville/Buncombe Hoteliers is one of the most generous, selfless acts I have witnessed coming out of this crisis,” Senator Edwards remarked. “For them to dedicate funding to help other businesses, funding that would otherwise go to promote their own- shows their sincerity and commitment to our community. This bill aims to help establish a local government stimulus initiative that makes extraordinary investments to get Buncombe County businesses back up and running and workers returning to their jobs as quickly as possible. It provides much-needed financial support for the small businesses that are the lifeblood of the Buncombe County visitor economy,” Senator Edwards goes on to say.

TDA Chairman Gary Froeba said, “These small businesses are directly impacted by tourism, employ thousands of residents, and generate millions of dollars in local sales and property taxes and billions in revenue. Collectively they provide visitors with reasons to visit Asheville and the rest of Buncombe County.”

“The effects of the coronavirus have hit small businesses more painfully; Government-mandated restrictions on business activity and public mobility resulting in plunging revenues taking their toll on jobs and small business viability. I won’t wait until the pandemic subsides, my focus is on our economic recovery now through short-term aid and long-term structural reforms to promote recovery and growth,” said Joe Belcher, County Commissioner.

Under this act, $5 million will be appropriated from unspent funds currently remaining in the 25 percent Tourism Product Development Fund portion of the Buncombe County occupancy tax. Grants would be awarded to Buncombe County “tourism-related” small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic to provide funds for the restart of their business once the recovery begins and it is safe to begin operating or to resume full operations.

Applicants would be eligible for up to $50,000 in grants that can be used for payroll, inventory, and other expenses associated with reopening businesses and hiring employees. Businesses that qualify are those that provide a direct experience for visitors, including restaurants, retail, studios and galleries, attractions, tours and activities, breweries, wineries, cideries, distilleries, entertainment and event venues, and numerous other categories.

Lodging properties would not be eligible. To be eligible, a business must meet the same requirements as those to be listed on the BCTDA website at Preference will be given to small businesses that are local and independently owned.

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4 thoughts on “Chuck Edwards, two BCTDA members propose $5M recovery fund for tourism businesses

  1. Matt

    Why doe this article say “BCTDA” when this is an arch Republican proposal cooked up in secret (excluding the Democratic members of the state delegation) and not even backed by all members of the BCTDA? The aid is conditional on lifting the stay-home orders, and is political pressure on the governor and county commission. It clearly fits Trump’s apparent agenda of sacrificing lives (blame them on the flu, absent testing) to rekindle the economy right before an election, as well as that of the hotel lobby (Jim Muth) who want their tourist revenue back as soon as possible, because they are first and foremost concerned about their own bottom lines. Edwards’ 1984 rhetoric is the most transparently political of all, and that arch Republicans Belcher and Gary Froeba are the co-sponsors also speaks volumes.

    • Virginia Daffron

      I agree that the headline needs more detail to clarify that, based on the press release, we can only conclude that two members of the BCTDA have declared their support for this proposed legislation. I have updated it accordingly. Thanks for your comment.

      • Matt

        Thank you. I do think it’s fair to say they were planning to do something regardless, but the political dig at Cooper and Newman is just icing on the cake. Playing God via token patronage is also how the hotel lobby traditionally manages public criticism, generally, so it will be most interesting to see how many of these funds are actually released on what timeline and in what fashion, and what impact they have if any on local leaders trying to keep us safe, instead of padding hotel profits. Also most importantly, what this does to the reversing of the law that made TPDF funds only available to nonprofits a couple years ago, and what precedent it is claimed to have set for the TPDF portion going forward (itself the subject of some debate between commission and hotel lobby, as this paper has previously pointed out).

        Thank you for your continued coverage.

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