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Corona Economics

Airbnb hosts send 40K+ letters to Congress pleading for financial relief from coronavirus

More than half of all Airbnb hosts use revenue to help them afford their homes.

Airbnb hosts nationwide are calling for support measures to help them absorb the financial impact of travel restrictions and housing options as social distancing measures continue to ramp up.

Hosts have sent more than 40,000 messages to members of Congress.

“Twelve years ago, the federal government stepped in to help the auto and banking industries for the sake of our broader economy, but didn’t provide similar support for everyday people. Since the financial crisis, and in part because of its lasting fallout, millions of Americans turned to online marketplaces such as Airbnb to help them get by,” wrote Aibnb Vice President of Policy and Communications Chris Lehane. “Let’s show we have learned the lessons from that last crisis and make sure that this time, financial support goes to the everyday Americans and small business owners that power the American economy, and not just the large corporations.”

The letters from hosts come after Lehane sent his own letter to members of Congress calling on financial support for hosts.

In a memo attached to that letter, the company highlighted several data points including more than half of hosts who use Airbnb income to help them afford to stay in their homes, nearly half who said they were using Airbnb income to supplement expenses and nearly one in five who said the platform was crucial in helping them avoid eviction or foreclosures.

“Airbnb has been my savior. I was a teacher at a middle school, working long hours, weekends, and getting barely enough pay to make ends meet. Now that I am an Airbnb host, I am finally able to be financially stable and also give my sisters jobs helping me clean,” wrote one Gainesville host listed only as Robert. “It has given us financial security and helped us live better lives. In the last week, I have received over 20 cancellations. I feel like a chicken with my head cut off. I don’t know how I will feed myself next month. I am very scared.”

The US Travel Association estimates that decreased travel due to COVID-19 will inflict an $809 billion hit on the US economy and eliminate 4.6 million travel-related American jobs this year. With home sharing now comprising an estimated 10% of US consumer spending on overnight stays, the impacts of this economic crisis will be felt by everyday people who share their assets on Airbnb.

“I am a merchant seaman and count on rental income to help pay the mortgage when I am away at sea. I have had zero rentals this calendar year thus far and all reservations in the spring/summer have cancelled,” wrote Pensacola host Tawrence.

In addition to the data about Airbnb host impacts, the memo also highlighted that 58% of hosts in the U.S. are women, that Americans over the age of 60 living on fixed incomes about for a fifth of all U.S. hosts and that 14% of hosts or someone in their household are educators.

The requested relief package would include clarifying small business loan eligibility to include short term rentals and hosts and adding unemployment assistance benefits for hosts.

“I am 85 years old. I rent out my condominium to vacation tourists in Key West to supplement my SSI payments,” said Key West host Jack. “So far, I have five cancellations and counting.  I return people”s rent money because it is the right thing to do but I face considerable financial challenges since I am not eligible for unemployment benefits and the high season rental weeks will never come back in 2020.  I write this just so we vacation hosts are not forgotten in whatever government assistance might be forthcoming.”

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at Janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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