Yesterday marked the first day of the 2020 virtual American Boating Congress (ABC) event where, despite not being able to meet in person, over 800 participants from across the country attended to learn about NMMA’s advocacy efforts to protect the boating industry during the current COVID-19 crisis. The programming – which was covered by Beltway media – included a variety of panel discussions featuring members of Congress and state officials who discussed state and federal responses to the ongoing pandemic and addressed questions and concerns in real-time from our members.
To kick off the day’s activities, staff members from the House and Senate Small Business Committees provided insights from their work on efforts such as the CARES Act, particularly the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Renée Bender, member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, addressed the rapid nature of developing this program and how they are working closely with the Department of Treasury to ensure Congress is honoring the good faith efforts of small businesses. Renée was joined by Michael Stein, Counsel for the House Committee on Small Business, who spoke to the ways in which they are looking to rectify existing challenges with PPP, such as extending the timeframe of using loans. Both Michael and Renée emphasized the fast, bipartisan nature of this work and the continued efforts to listen to concerns of small businesses, such as those in the boating industry, to improve these programs.
The keynote session featured the co-chairs of the Problem Solvers Caucus, Representatives Tom Reed (R-NY-23) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ-5). Bringing perspectives from both political parties and a shared determination to work across the aisle to generate solutions, Representatives Gottheimer and Reed have worked closely together during the pandemic to cultivate a bipartisan approach to relief efforts. The members discussed the caucus's priorities for the next stimulus package, which include ensuring state and local resources get to the local level, making testing for COVID-19 more ubiquitous as states start thinking about how to reopen, and reinforcing supply chains. Infrastructure is also a high priority for the Problem Solvers Caucus, and both representatives mentioned that they view this as a bipartisan issue as they seek to push forward a comprehensive infrastructure package.
To conclude the panel component of the day, four state officials from across the country discussed the different approaches they are taking when coordinating on how to safely and swiftly restart the economy. Jon Snyder, Jay Inslee’s Policy Advisor for Outdoor Recreation and Economic Development in Washington, discussed the phased approach his state is taking to bring tiers of industries back; Sammie Arnold, Chief of Staff for the Tennessee Economic Recovery Group, spoke to the rural areas in his state that are looking to reopen and how the government is working on the state level to ensure that they have the testing resources to achieve their mission; Bob Meier, Assistant Commissioner for Policy and Government Relations for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, addressed boating responsibly as a safe activity people can engage in; and Sean Mahar, Chief of Staff at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, talked about the prioritization of recreational fishing, boating, and manufacturing while looking towards science to drive the safest reopening strategy.
The day closed out with a presentation from Nicole Vasilaros, NMMA's Senior Vice President of Government and Legal Affairs. In her overview of the global pandemic's impact on recreational boating businesses, Nicole addressed the toll that COVID-19 has taken on the industry thus far, but also reinforced how crucial the boating and fishing industries will be for our nation's economic recovery.
The online conference continues today, May 14 from 1-2:30 p.m. ET. The full schedule for ABC 2020 can be found here.