Kentucky Politics

State tourism and convention officials are asking lawmakers to set aside $75 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to help the industry weather the coronavirus pandemic.

Kentucky tourism has slowly recovered over the last year after a sharp drop in travel during the pandemic, but industry advocates want a jump start of federal relief money to help market the state.

Hank Phillips, president of the Kentucky Travel Industry Association, said tourism needs help gaining traction.

“We need to get off the mat, we need to become stronger, more productive, and our tourism recovery and investment plan will help us get there,” Phillips said during a legislative meeting last week.

Kentucky has spent at least $1.4 billion of the $2.1 billion it received as part of the American Rescue Plan Act that passed out of Congress last year.

The travel industry’s proposal includes setting aside $15 million for the Kentucky Department of Tourism to market the state, $35 million that would go to city tourism efforts and $25 million for cities that have convention centers and large hotels.

Marci Krueger, a vice president with Lexington’s tourism bureau, said conventions have been hit especially hard by the pandemic.

“The ARPA funds will definitely help us, with the cities of Kentucky, to market and promote meetings and convention visits, to welcome them back into the beautiful state of Kentucky and to leave their money here with us in our state,” Krueger said.

State lawmakers will write a new state budget during the upcoming legislative session and the line of industries and professions asking for help at this stage of the pandemic is growing.

Some Republican lawmakers proposed spending $81 million to recruit and retain health care professionals during the pandemic. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear asked to spend $400 million in “hero pay” bonuses for frontline workers and provide $15,000 per year raises to state troopers. And social workers are asking for raises amid workforce shortages and grueling conditions.

This story has been updated.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.