Brand USA: Boost for the nation's first national marketing campaign

National Restaurant Association and other organisations support two new proposals for travel and healthcare legislation, reports Amelia Levin

The US Congress could be headed toward a rare agreement around travel and tourism legislation that would have a strong impact on the restaurant industry.

The House and Senate Commerce Committee passed the Travel Promotion, Enhancement and Modernization Act of 2014 – bipartisan legislation that reauthorises Brand USA, the nation’s first global marketing campaign, to promote the U.S. as a destination for international travellers. The Act is currently awaiting a Senate vote.

Scott DeFife, executive vice president of policy and government affairs for the National Restaurant Association applauded the move on behalf of the association. “The restaurant industry relies on travel and tourism and the success of our member companies is closely tied to the promotion of Brand USA around the world,” he said.  “Travel and tourism is vital to our industry and if restaurants do well, the benefits are felt throughout our nation’s economy.”

Representatives Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Peter Welch (D-VT) led the push for passage of the Travel Promotion Act, which also drew support from multiple industry businesses.

In other news, the National Restaurant Association and 170 businesses, organisations showed their support for legislation that would repeal an Affordable Care Act mandate requiring large employers to automatically enrol employees into a health care plan if the employee fails to voluntarily choose or decline coverage.  The Auto Enroll Repeal Act, S. 2546, sponsored by Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), has also drawn support from the Retail Industry Leaders Association, the Food Marketing Institute and the Employers for Flexibility in Health Care (E-FLEX) Coalition.

DeFife called the current auto enrolment mandate “confusing and unnecessary,” and pointed out the many part-time, seasonal and temporary workers in the industry and the high costs and administrative needs associated with applying for insurance for employees who may not want or need it through them. Businesses are also concerned individuals may end up enrolled in a plan that does not fit their specific health needs or that wouldn’t be accepted by their health providers.

Christine Pollack, vice president for government affairs at RILA said the mandate causes “uncertainty for employers and threatens the employer-sponsored health system.  Retailers are working to comply with the law and it is important that Congress make commonsense adjustments and repeal provisions such as auto enroll in order to ease the administrative burdens.”

Acknowledging the complexity of the situation, the Department of Labor has waived compliance with the current mandate until rules can be clarified for this provision of the law, or if the repeal goes through.

Amelia Levin

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