(The Center Square) – Walt Disney Co.’s announcement it will lay off about 28,000 workers at two theme parks, including Disney World in Orlando, is more bad news for Florida’s tourist economy, which has shed 250,000 jobs in five months.
The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) said Florida has lost 76,746 hotel jobs since March – 40 percent of state's hotel workforce – and could lose another 64,257 jobs within six months without federal assistance.
There are 249,400 fewer people employed in hospitality jobs in Florida this September than last, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (FDEO) said.
Hotel industry representatives staged a conference call Tuesday to vent about frustration with federal inaction and to lobby for a second round of COVID-19 assistance, which remains mired in congressional partisanship.
HDG Hotels' Chief People and Culture Officer Lisa Lombardo said many employers used the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to pay furloughed workers and keep them off state unemployment rolls.
PPP money has run out, however, Lombardo said, and without congressional assistance, it could take five years for Florida’s hospitality industry to recover, she said.
Lombardo said HDG Hotels followed the congressional game plan until Congress and the game plan dissolved in partisan discord.
“We played by the original rules and deadlines. We brought our people back,” Lombardo said. “But now what? Those funds are gone, as of the end of June actually, and our (employment) is in decline. As small business owners, we are the fiduciaries of people’s livelihoods and bringing them back cannot have been temporary.”
AHLA CEO Chip Rogers estimated $150 billion in PPP money has not been spent because of restrictions and most of the $454 billion expected to be leveraged into $4 trillion in loans through the Federal Reserve’s Main Street Lending Program also has gone untouched.
There’s nearly $600 billion that could be allocated if not for congressional dysfunction, he said.
“Perhaps the last and almost most difficult one to handle is that our elected officials in Congress, if you went today and asked them what was the most important thing happening in their life today, many would probably say, if they were honest, that it is either a political debate that’s happening later tonight or their own re-election,” Rogers said, referring to Tuesday night’s debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
“And I’m not sure we can express our frustration enough,” he said. “But our elected officials, who are defined as public servants, care more about, or in many cases seem to care more about, going home to protect their own jobs, than they care about the very jobs of the people they’re supposed to represent.”
In announcing layoffs at Disney World in Orlando and Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., Disney Parks’ Experience and Product Chairman Josh D’Amaro didn’t specify how many jobs at each park would be affected other than to say two-thirds of those laid off will be part-timers.
Disney World employs 77,000 people, and Disneyland has about 30,000 workers. No notice of mass layoffs had been filed with the FDEO on Wednesday.
Disney World reopened in mid-July. About 20,000 union workers, half of its unionized employees, were called back. With airline travel dramatically down – the industry will announce layoffs Thursday – and California officials not allowing Disneyland to reopen, D’Amato called the layoffs “the only feasible option.”
Disney’s layoffs further imperil Orlando's $75.2 billion tourist economy. According to the Central Florida Economic Development Council, the region’s three theme parks – Disney World, Universal and SeaWorld – drew more than 75 million visitors, sustained 463,000 jobs and generated more than $5.8 billion in tax revenue last year.