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Hochul announces almost half a billion in tourism industry funding

People wear masks around Times Square, as cases of the infectious coronavirus Delta variant continue to rise in New York City, New York, U.S., July 23, 2021.
REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Governor Kathy Hochul announced almost half a billion in state funds to boost the tourism industry and its workers recover from the COVID-19 pandemic on Monday.

The governor wants to provide as much as $450 million for the ailing sector as federal authorities have started allowing international visitors back into the United States if they are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus on Nov. 8. 

“Since day one, I’ve had one thought as your governor… I want to make New York fun again,” said Hochul during her announcement of the initiative at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. “I want people to feel that vitality, that energy that all of us knew before the pandemic that we just embraced was part of our DNA.”

The package includes $100 million for tourism workers who have not been able to come back to their jobs or a full-time position, and who will be able to get a one-time payment of up to $2,700 from the state’s Department of Labor, according to Hochul.

“There are so many jobs that are still not back yet, and we cannot be blind to this any longer,” she said. “We cannot just say, ‘They’ll be back tomorrow, just keep holding on.’ People been holding on a long time since they lost their extended unemployment benefits back in September.”

The state will contact eligible New Yorkers via text or email, according to the governor’s office. 

Another $100 million in grants will go to businesses to incentivize them to rehire workers sooner, and for each staff member they bring back full-time for at least six months the companies can get $5,000, and $2,500 for each part-time employee.

More information on that grant is available on the Empire State Development’s website

There will also be a $25 million grant for convention centers to spur the return of trade shows and events, also available from ESD, and another $25 million the state will spend on an international “I LOVE NY” ad campaign promoting the Empire State.

The largest chunk of $200 million will come from the state’s $800 million pandemic small business recovery grant program and Hochul plans to introduce legislation to expand the criteria to allow more companies to get the relief. 

That expansion still requires the sign-off from the State Legislature, which reconvenes in Albany in January. 

After almost three decades of growth in tourism in New York City, peaking at 66.6 million visitors in 2019, the numbers dropped by two-thirds in 2020 to 22.3 million as the coronavirus tore through the Big Apple, according to an April report by the office of State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

The industry’s economic impact dropped from $80.3 billion in 2019 to $20.2 billion in 2020, the state’s accountant estimates, and 89,000 jobs were lost out of 283,000.

Hotel room occupancy is down 30% in the city and 20% statewide, according to Hochul, who added that the $117 billion industry employed 403,000 workers statewide pre-pandemic and is the third-largest sector in the Empire State.

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