AV Pros Advocate for Event Aid

As the meetings industry scrambled to manage cancellations, hotel closures and shelter in place mandates in an attempt to flatten the curve on coronavirus (COVID-19), a group of audiovisual experts launched a petition to bring some relief. In less than a week, COVID-19 Federal Aid Package for the Events Industry Change.org petition posted by a handful of employees at Florida-based Digerati Productions collected more than 200,000 signatures.

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“Covid-19 virus is nothing like anything we have faced in our modern economic times,” read the petition. “The purpose of this petition is to sound the alarm on a massive economic catastrophe that is transpiring in our nation,” explained Isaac Rothwell, Digerati national director of operations. His company had started feeling the implications on European events about a month ago, but wasn’t seeing anyone addressing the pain affecting the small companies that make up the events industry.

His team whipped up a quick petition that outlined the vast number of roles and jobs in the events industry—meeting planners, account executives, sales, warehouse managers, producers, project managers, drivers, operations managers, executives, administrative staff, technicians, stage hands, general labor and service workers along with many more that work behind scenes to bring people and businesses together every day of the year never ceasing 24/7, until now…

It explained that the impact ripples through the transportation and hospitality industry (hotels, conference centers, restaurants, etc.) that rely on meetings to keep housekeepers, servers and hostesses employed. It also referenced the estimated $326 billion in direct spending Events Industry Council reported in 2016 study as a way to put into perspective the impact a sudden halt in meetings will have on the larger economy.

“The time has come that our industry’s livelihood must be completely sacrificed to save lives. Limiting the spread of the virus is the only way to slow and mitigate its massive health and financial impact on our nation,” the writers stated.

“Many tears of fear, anger and dread have been shed today, and in the previous month, by all our families knowing the monumental cost of our sacrifice to help save our nation from the spread of the virus. These are financial losses that will never be recovered.”

The authors compared the possible economic impact to the 2008 recession and mortgage market collapse and concluded. It could potentially dwarf that the industry is almost 2.5 times larger than GM.

“If not addressed quickly and forcefully, the financial ramifications will spread to other sectors of our economy as tens of millions of consumers will focus on survival spending habits,” he said.

Beyond the hard numbers of the industry’s losses is a two-fold scenario of economic collapse that will create collateral losses across all businesses and entities in the United States. Over the last 50 years, the economy has relied heavily on professional collaboration, information exchange and communication. Every day, millions of business leaders, professionals and experts from every field meet to learn and collaborate. Without those meetings, the country is looking at monumental setbacks in professional collaboration and business development. The authors called the live events and business meetings industry “the invisible fabric that ties our U.S. business culture together.”

The petition was posted on Facebook and quickly gained traction from production companies large and small, along with independent planners.

Draft Aid Package

It called for immediate federal action to “protect the live events and business meetings industry from total collapse and save the rest of our economy from collateral damage. We need congress and the executive branch to take immediate action.”

The aid package suggested includes:

  • Emergency Medicaid health insurance to cover uninsured business owners, contractors and laid-off employees
  • An additional $200 billion in low interest federally backed business liquidity loans
  • $100 billion in employee retention grants
  • The ability to submit canceled contracts as loss of income on our 2020 taxes.

“We plead with our elected officials to hear our warnings and cries for help as we not only see our own plight, but also the plight of the entire economy we will bring down with us.”

The next step, according to Rothwell, is to start generating letters to send to elected officials. “We have to be proactive,” he said.