The North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association estimates nearly half of all hotel workers in the state will be laid off as the coronavirus pandemic curtails travel.
During a webinar with state tourism and commerce officials, association President Lynn Minges advocated for hotels to be deemed "essential businesses" so they can stay open despite government orders to shut down most businesses.
"We are literally playing triage minute by minute to the extent we can keep those open for workers and relief workers," Minges said.
The hospitality group is launching a workers relief fund to provide $500 to hotel and restaurant employees who have been displaced as a result of the crisis.
For restaurants, Minges said cash flow is a major issue, as mandated social distancing ramps up. She said a lack of money coming in is leading restaurant owners to ask for tax deferment.
"They are pleading, begging, asking for tax relief," she said. "We have asked for some relief with that just temporary until some of these relief funds start flowing into their bank accounts."
The hospitality industry group sent a letter to the state House speaker urging lawmakers to consider enacting policies that would help during this coronavirus crisis. Along with tax deferment, the laundry list of proposals includes calls for utility shut-offs and evictions of restaurants to be suspended and for restaurants to be allowed to deliver alcoholic beverages.