The government affairs team at the American Rental Association (ARA) is making several adjustments that will allow it to better help those in the specific segments of the industry and those still struggling to recover from the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Recently, the ARA board of directors approved the bifurcation of the ARA Government Affairs Committee into two distinct segment-specific committees — the Event Segment Advocacy Committee and the Equipment Segment Advocacy Committee.
“Due to some members in the event rental segment who continue to struggle with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, ARA formed an event-specific advocacy group made up of members in this specific sector as well as a committee made up of those in the equipment rental segment,” says John McClelland, Ph.D., ARA’s vice president for government affairs and chief economist.
“Depending on the type of equipment rented, members have very different legislative and regulatory needs and concerns. ARA members will be better able to address and advocate on those specific concerns with this new structure,” McClelland says.
The previously established event advocacy workgroup has been asked to serve as the first Event Segment Advocacy Committee. It will meet in December 2021 in conjunction with the Equipment Segment Advocacy Committee to discuss segment-specific issues and issues of mutual concern.
One of the first tasks of the Event Segment Advocacy Committee is oversight of a new coalition — the Economic Bridge Coalition (EBC) — spearheaded by ARA. The coalition, which includes ARA and 11 other associations, represents small businesses across the country that have been hit hard by the pandemic. These companies include those that support live events such as equipment and event rental companies, audio visual providers, event planners and designers, etc.; firms that power the travel industry such as travel advisors; amusement parks and attractions; and those who are engaged in all aspects of producing fairs and festivals as well as air shows, horse shows, and all aspects of auto shows and the auto racing industry.
All of these businesses share one common theme — they have lost income that cannot be recovered, and they have a longer runway than most businesses before they can return to pre-pandemic business activity. After more than a year of being effectively shuttered, owners are struggling to hang on, having taken on mountains of debt and made uncountable personal sacrifices to weather the storm the pandemic has brought. Many, in fact, already have failed and many more will follow soon without further assistance.
“Our members are mostly family-owned and bring jobs and economic activity to every part of the country. They have borrowed, used up savings, even mortgaged their homes to stay afloat, but many are about to lose everything. The hard-working members of our coalition partners are facing the same bleak fates. That’s why we’ve joined together to ask for expansion of pandemic relief programs to those who have been left out,” McClelland says.
The members of the coalition are joining together to ask Congress and the Biden administration to help them recover and re-hire so they can again play important roles in the economy and serve their many customers.
The founding members of the coalition include ARA; the Live Events Coalition, representing businesses that produce and service live events; the American Society of Travel Advisors, representing travel agencies and advisors; the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), representing theme parks, family entertainment centers, museums, water parks, aquariums, and other attractions; the International Council of Air Shows; the Outdoor Amusement Business Association; the International Association of Fairs and Expositions; the Professional Photographers Association; the American Horse Council, representing the $122 billion U.S. horse industry; the Specialty Equipment Market Association; the Performance Racing Industry; and the National Ski Areas Association.
The goal of the EBC is to educate policy makers on the facts so they can enact additional relief before it is too late to save thousands of businesses and jobs dependent on in-person activities. The first steps to achieving that was to compile a policy paper and send it to members of Congress, plus distribute a press release to lawmakers and media outlets in Washington, D.C. Those first steps were completed on May 18. The next step will be to work with members of Congress to create legislation for additional financial relief. Once that is developed, ARA members will be asked to advocate with their members of Congress.
Creating a coalition with nearly a dozen other associations will help ARA and its members to have a louder voice when expressing the dire need for additional help.
With this new activity and engagement, ARA’s National Legislative Caucus is anticipated to be back in 2022 with more attendees. Both the Event Segment Advocacy Committee and the Equipment Segment Advocacy Committee will help host the event which will bring dozens of ARA members to Washington, D.C. There, they will meet with members of Congress on Capitol Hill and share the needs and concerns of the equipment and event rental industry. Caucus is scheduled to be held in the spring of 2022.