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How will Las Vegas weather next downturn? This bill is designed to help

Updated September 15, 2023 - 9:02 am

New bipartisan legislation was introduced in Congress this week to help tourism-reliant areas like Las Vegas develop strategies to better handle economic downturns.

Introduced by Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., the INVEST in Our Communities Act would establish new federal grants and programs that would help “areas tied to the tourism economy” have more resiliency to economic downturns by investing in workforce development programs, creating economic development plans and improving outdoor infrastructure, according to a news release from Titus’ office.

These goals would be accomplished by creating a new program called Hospitality and Outdoor-Recreation Supporting Tourism, or HOST, at the U.S. Economic Development Administration as well as creating a Capacity Building Grant Program.

The HOST program would focus on improving outdoor infrastructure related to tourism and workforce development programs to help fill open positions in the industry. The Capacity Building Grant Program would provide funding to help communities identify assets, create economic development strategies and market studies, it would also provide technical assistance for tourism-heavy areas to improve their operations.

These two programs would be separate from each other but both would be administered by the EDA, according to Titus’ office.

Who can apply for funds?

Several different types of organizations could apply for these programs’ grants and benefits including local government agencies, economic development districts, institutions of higher learning, nonprofits working in cooperation with state government agencies as well as tribal and native Hawaiian organizations.

Titus touted this legislation as needed based on the impact the pandemic had on Las Vegas and as a way to create a permanent federal program that recognizes the importance of tourism for the economy.

“At the height of the pandemic Southern Nevada had the highest unemployment rate of any large metro area in the country, due in large part to sustained declines in our tourism and hospitality industries,” Titus said in a statement. “This negatively impacted employment, local government revenues, and economic development in areas around the country that rely heavily on tourism. Our legislation will ensure that U.S. travel and tourism industries can continue on the path to recovery while building resiliency to future economic shocks and public health emergencies.”

The legislation seeks to fund the HOST program at $100 million per year through fiscal year 2027, and the Capacity Building Grant Program would be funded through the annual appropriations process, according to Titus’ office.

Titus introduced this legislation along with U.S. Rep. Rudy Yakym, R-Ind. The news release also indicates that Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., and Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., will introduce companion legislation.

Cortez Masto’s office said the companion legislation will be introduced in the fall and would be a reintroduction of legislation the senator first announced in April 2022.

This legislation was applauded by the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance as something that can help organizations which focus on boosting businesses in local areas, like the LVGEA.

“The HOST Act includes provisions that will strengthen our efforts to diversify the greater Vegas economy,” said Tina Quigley, the president and CEO of the LVGEA, in a statement. “The legislation’s focus on capacity building and planning assistance is particularly critical for organizations like ours to compete with other metropolitan areas and attract new businesses and support our existing companies’ growth.”

Another component of the bill will also increase the maximum federal cost share — the portion of costs of a project that is funded by the federal government — for communities that are impacted by disasters and tribal organizations.

Contact Sean Hemmersmeier at shemmersmeier@reviewjournal.com. Follow @seanhemmers34 on X.

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