COVID-19 Briefing Memo

December 1, 2020

Executive Summary

The start December brings us that much closer to the end of 2020. But sadly, 2020’s ending is beginning much like the pandemic began – with surging virus caseloads, a return (to some degree) of the various lockdowns of early spring, and likely yet another major holiday that looks nothing like it normally would. Because normal, while something still pined for, is still a way away – assuming life returns in the same way as before, which is still the subject of much debate.

And as we head toward the end of the year, the economy is yet again at an important inflection point, as unless congressional action is taken in the next three weeks, myriad COVID-19-related safety-net programs will expire and leave millions of Americans without critical support at a time when the virus is spreading at levels not seen since spring. These are programs that fund additional unemployment benefits, allow for mortgage payment forbearance and a stop to foreclosures, helped pause payments on federally backed student loans, and doled out critical funds for state aid. All are set to go away at the end of December.

And this is serving as a backdrop to an economy that continues to experience fits and starts, as last week’s “jobless claims rose for the second straight week, to 778,000, a sign that the nationwide surge in virus cases [is] starting to weigh on the labor-market recovery.” As The Wall Street Journal noted, “claims haven’t risen for two consecutive weeks since July.” And this dynamic will likely continue as the American economy cannot consistently recover while the virus remains largely unmanaged. As The New York Times wrote, “Nearly a year into a pandemic that has ravaged the global economy like no time since the Great Depression, the only clear pathway toward improved fortunes is containing the virus itself. With the United States suffering its most rampant transmission yet, and with major nations in Europe again under lockdown, prospects remain grim for a meaningful worldwide recovery before the middle of next year, and far longer in some economies. Substantial job growth could take longer still.” While many people never thought we would still be dealing with this much uncertainty almost a year after the pandemic started, it appears we will be dealing with it for some time to come, until and unless, vaccinations begin being deployed.

Not surprisingly, this continued uncertainty is still making its way into some of the attitudes and perceptions of American travelers. According to this week’s research from Destination Analysts, “In terms of how Americans are feeling about the virus, many emotions remain largely unchanged, with anxieties about personally or loved ones’ contracting the virus and the pandemic’s impact on personal and national economics in an elevated but stable period that have not reached the peak levels seen during the two prior surges in March and July.” While that’s better than earlier this year, “over 60% of Americans continue to believe the pandemic is going to get worse in the next month.” And that level of concern is impacting travelers’ ability to be inspired to travel. As the research also notes, “Americans’ openness to travel inspiration has been on a steady decline since Oct. 18 and fully half of American travelers say they have lost their interest in traveling for the time being.” More importantly, “62% say if they were to travel right now, they wouldn’t be able to fully enjoy it.” So even if Americans are inclined to travel, there is a realization right now that travel, such as it is at the moment, may not be able to currently satisfy the very real physical and emotional needs they have.

However, “the worst of this latest surge’s impact on travel behavior may be passing or at least be in a temporary reprieve,” as “the percent of American travelers who report they have canceled or postponed any upcoming leisure trips because of the recent increases in COVID-19 cases in the U.S. has dropped to 38.1% from 47.4% two weeks ago, and now 56.3% say recent increases in COVID-19 cases around the country have made them less likely to travel in the next three months – down from 62.8% in the same period.” And this may be due to recent news of multiple vaccine’s viability and pending dissemination, as “reports of vaccine developments also continue to provide Americans hope about their travel future,” which may explain why “80% of American travelers [still] have at least tentative trip plans for the future.”

So while we may be facing a long, hard winter over the next month, there are at least some bright spots on the horizon – multiple vaccines will likely be approved and scheduled for initial distribution before the year’s end; congressional leaders in both chambers today announced resumed virus relief talks for the first time in six months; and American travelers remain largely steadfast in the need for a vacation in the near future, even in the midst of another massive spike in virus cases.

 

Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act

April 10, 2020

Congress has completed its work on the CARES Act, also known as “Phase 3” of the COVID-19 federal response. We now shift our updates to the regulatory and implementation side with a focus on helping our clients and partners navigate the options for federal assistance during the pandemic and beyond.