Expansion of PPP for organizations like ours will enable us to dramatically contribute to the rebuilding of our economy, as we reopen and welcome visitors to experience all our area has to offer.

Here in Greater Des Moines, jobs are in danger. A busy summer travel and event season has typically employed thousands in our community, but this year's new reality has put many of our friends and neighbors out of work. With restrictions in place and travelers' (understandable) concerns, the spring and summer seasons have not brought our usual number of visitors, even while our tourism and hospitality partners take necessary precautions and implement new health and safety protocols.

At Catch Des Moines, the convention and visitor's bureau representing 15 metro municipalities, many small businesses, and their workforces, our responsibility is promoting Greater Des Moines to attract leisure visitors, conventions and meetings, sports events and business travelers who support our local economy. To do that effectively, we need Congress to help save the travel industry. 

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a critical lifeline for small businesses across the country to keep their doors open and people employed. Up until recently, destination marketing organizations like ours have been excluded from PPP benefits. However, we desperately need this support, particularly the program's loan forgiveness. This support would benefit not only Greater Des Moines but all the destination marketing organizations in Iowa, collectively working to promote our state as an attractive destination. 

Access to PPP funding would tremendously assist our resiliency and continuity, not to mention help preserve all that we love about our great community. We are no different from any other PPP recipient — except our incorporation as a 501(c)6 organization. This specific distinction has so far precluded our participation in the PPP, placing our survival and growth of the Greater Des Moines region at risk.

Luckily, the solution is easy and within reach. The U.S. Senate's latest relief and stimulus bill, the HEALS Act, builds upon the good work of the HEROES Act introduced by the U.S. House and supports the expansion of PPPs to include destination marketing organizations. We extend our thanks to Senate leadership for including these provisions, and we implore Senators Grassley and Ernst to ensure these measures are included in the final package.

Travel organizations, of which 83% are small businesses, have experienced an unprecedented contraction due to the coronavirus. So far, 51% of the industry's 15.8 million jobs have been lost, and travel spending is on pace to decline by over $500 billion this year, with a total negative impact on the U.S. economy of more than $1.2 trillion.

We are experiencing this harsh reality firsthand. As an entity reliant upon tourism revenues, we have made difficult decisions to stay afloat, becoming a valuable resource for our communities and the hospitality industry and a champion for supporting local businesses. We also take every chance to remind everyone that this rich, vibrant region will be ready to welcome visitors once travel can pick back up. 

At Catch Des Moines, we have experienced unprecedented success these past few years, from our award-winning S's Are Silent campaign to hosting the NCAA men's basketball tournament and landing events like the prestigious Ironman event. We continue to help put Greater Des Moines on the map, ensuring that our culture remains vibrant, our economy strong, and our quality of life unparalleled.  

The stakes are high right now for the overall health of our economy and our workforce — particularly in Greater Des Moines. And as one of the community's primary economic drivers through our efforts to attract visitors, we want to be in the position to do exactly that as soon as possible. Expansion of PPP for organizations like ours will enable us to dramatically contribute to the rebuilding of our economy, as we safely reopen and welcome visitors to experience all that Greater Des Moines has to offer.

Greg Edwards is president and CEO of Catch Des Moines.