January 19, 2021

Cortez Masto Raises Hospitality Industry, Housing Issues With Treasury Secretary Nominee Yellen

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Washington, D.C. – During today’s Senate Finance Committee Hearing, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) questioned President-elect Biden’s nominee for Secretary of the Treasury, Dr. Janet Yellen, about ways to relieve the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on Nevada’s hospitality industry and on the state’s ongoing housing crisis.                                  

Cortez Masto asked, “Before the pandemic, the travel and tourism industry was one of the largest sectors of the economy. In 2019, travel generated $1.1 trillion in spending and supported 15.8 million American jobs. But the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the travel industry more than any other sector of the economy. And according to Oxford Economics, the US lost $510 billion in travel spending and 4.5 million travel jobs in 2020. So my question to you is, what are your recommendations for addressing this hardest-hit service economy sector and its workers, like those in Nevada and across the country?”

Dr. Yellen agreed that the travel industry was “the hardest-hit sector, with the most pain and job loss.” She noted that addressing the pandemic so that Americans can travel again is “the top of agenda. And in the meantime, making sure that we support the workers and the businesses that have been so badly affected, giving them the aid they need to get through this, come out the other side. And to help state and local governments in a variety of ways—reopen schools, make sure that you don’t have to fire emergency workers because of the budget pressures that your state faces, and other states.”

Senator Cortez Masto asked about her bipartisan Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act, which “provides tax credits to individuals and businesses to boost demand for travel when it’s safe to travel again.” She asked Dr. Yellen whether tax credits would be effective tools to incentivize spending and help the travel and tourism sector recover.

Dr. Yellen replied that she would look at the legislation and work with Senator Cortez Masto to examine the details of the bill’s impact more fully.

Senator Cortez Masto raised the issue of housing, saying that “Nevada is . . . dealing with an affordable housing crisis that started even before this pandemic. I know that it’s occurring across the country. . . . Could you really address how Treasury Department can work with us as well as the Biden-Harris Administration to address what we see in affordable housing crisis across the country?”

Dr. Yellen agreed that it was “a huge problem . . . and we really need to devise effective ways to work on this and support affordable housing—things like the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit I think have been very effective and we need to come up with other innovative strategies because this really is a crisis in many parts of the country.”

Video of the full exchange is available here.

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