Every business in the country has been impacted by COVID-19 in one way or another. But few sectors have been as hard hit, or face a longer road to recovery, than the travel agency industry. According to the American Society of Travel Advisors, with business at a standstill and no end to the pandemic in sight, 64 percent of travel agencies in the U.S. have laid off at least half of their staff - even with the federal relief programs provided by the CARES Act in March. What's more, over 70 percent will go out of business within the next six months without additional federal relief.

Without that relief, the travel agency sector is looking at an extinction-level event. This would deprive the traveling public of the critical services travel advisers provide and travel suppliers' (airlines, hotels, cruise lines, etc.) main distribution channel crippled.

So what was the response in Congress to this devastation in our industry and many others? After negotiations over the next relief bill deadlocked, they adjourned for their annual "August recess." It's possible they won't pass a relief bill until after the election or even until next year.

My message to our elected officials on behalf of the 140,000 people who work at travel agencies across the country is simple - Get back to work and support the small businesses who desperately need your help. Doing nothing is not an option. The future of our country depends on it!

Stacy Hauge, Winona