June 16, 2020

Editorial: Congress should extend Paycheck Protection Program to chambers, visitors bureaus

As the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the economy, business organizations throughout the Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado have stepped up to provide information, resources and assistance.

  • The Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce created an “Open for Business” page on the organization’s website to post information about businesses’ hours and services. The group also provides key information about U.S. Small Business Administration loan programs.
  • The Boulder Chamber created a “COVID-19 Community and Business Resources” page with updates on governmental guidance for business operations, resources for working remotely, child care, unemployment and many other programs.
  • The Greeley Area Chamber of Commerce created a page with links to organizations helping with COVID-19 recovery, as well as guidance for reopening of businesses, economic outlook and other topics.
  • The Latino Chamber of Commerce of Boulder County likewise posted a wealth of information for businesses.

Such outreach has been duplicated by chambers of commerce in Broomfield, Longmont, Loveland and many other communities.That’s why it’s so unfair that 501(c)6 organizations — a designation shared by chambers of commerce and visitors bureaus — have been excluded from enrollment in the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program.

Chambers of commerce and visitors bureaus come in all shapes and sizes, but all have been affected by COVID-19. Networking events, conferences and in-person awards programs serve as key fundraising mechanisms for these organizations. Governmental restrictions aimed at combating COVID-19 have prohibited such physical events, and much uncertainty exists about when that will change.

Additionally, economic woes have caused some chamber members to go out of business, with others cancelling their memberships.

It’s created a huge economic challenge for chambers of commerce and visitors bureaus as they attempt to weather the COVID-19 downturn.

For Congress to have excluded 501(c)6 organizations from the PPP, while other nonprofits are eligible, was an enormous mistake.

Thankfully, an option exists to right the wrong. A bipartisan group that includes U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colorado, has co-sponsored the Local Chamber, Tourism and 501(c)(6) Protection Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. The measure would extend PPP eligibility to such organizations. Importantly, it would exclude coverage of salaries of paid lobbyists for those organizations.

But it would also provide these organizations with bridge financing to get past the COVID-19 downturn.

Chambers of commerce and visitors bureaus play an important role in our economic recovery. Congress should ensure that they receive the help they need.

Related Content