More than 50 hotels and their employees got some good news Tuesday: The Washington County Visitors Association gave each hotel $10,000 to help tide them over during the Covid-19 coronavirus emergency.
The money comes from a reserve fund maintained by the association, which receives countywide lodging taxes paid by visitors who rent rooms. The amount is equivalent to 445 room rentals per night, at $90 per night, for 14 days.
Association President Carolyn McCormick and two board members spent Tuesday delivering the checks to hotel general managers, who can spend the money to retain employees, pay mortgages and utilities, and otherwise keep their doors open.
As of Tuesday, she said, 54 of the 56 hotels that received aid are open for business — even if general managers are running the front desks and cleaning rooms themselves.
"When you have 54 hotels still open under these circumstances, it is commendable," McCormick said in an interview.
"We are not asking for it back. We are asking that it goes toward that property… whatever they decide is in the best interests of that particular operation. I have great faith in them. If you don't have faith today, you are never going to have it."
She said the one-time grants are intended to help hotels for the next two weeks, until aid is available from state and federal governments and banks can make arrangements to help them offset lost income from virus-related shutdowns.
Board Chairman Dan Murphy is also cofounder of the Broadway Rose Theater Company in Tigard.
"Prosperous times will return," he said in a statement. "Our job now is to sustain the infrastructure and labor force of the lodging business community as they work to regain their footing. Above all, we share the belief that working together and supporting each other allows us to work successfully through the immediate challenges we are facing."
Before she came to Washington County in 2012, McCormick spent 12 years as chief executive of the Outer Banks Convention and Visitors Bureau in North Carolina, and also was a consultant for the Eastern Seaboard Trust.
"I have run tourism organizations that have had challenges due to hurricanes," she said. But she never imagined that a pandemic would prompt the use of a large reserve fund she insisted on at WCVA.
"Quite honestly, some of the people on the board would ask once in awhile whether we need that much. No one has been saying that lately," she said. "As someone mentioned, this is a rainy-day fund — and I said it is raining. But we spread a little sunshine today for a few people."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.