Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020 | 2 a.m.
Editor’s note: As he does every August, Brian Greenspun is turning over his Where I Stand column to others. Today’s guest is Mary Beth Sewald, president and CEO of the Vegas Chamber.
Nevada is at a pivotal point in our economic future. With the devastating impact of COVID-19, we are faced with not only rebuilding our economy but also embarking on new efforts to further diversify and broaden industry sectors and opportunities.
So many of our prospects depend on our ability to access help from the federal government. For more than a decade, the Vegas Chamber has led a delegation of Nevada business, community and government leaders to Washington, D.C., to advocate for the needs of our region to bolster economic development. This annual trip has been instrumental in working with our congressional delegation to augment Nevada’s voice on Capitol Hill. It has resulted in moving important Nevada policies forward, such as the designation and funding for Interstate 11, defunding of the nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, designating Tule Springs as a national monument, and accessing more Homeland Security dollars to protect our city.
This year, the Vegas Chamber is again joining with the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance for our D.C. fly-in on Sept. 14-17. While it will be a virtual “DC comes to LV” due to the coronavirus, the meetings and conversations will be more important than ever as we strive to recover our economy. Fellow attendees will include business and community leaders, elected and appointed officials, representatives from public agencies and special guests — a group that encompasses the diversity, depth, expertise and dedication of Nevada’s business community — to share in these important discussions as we envision our future.
We will connect with Nevada’s congressional delegation and other federal lawmakers, think tanks, political experts, policy groups and more. Here are some of the important policy issues we will be focusing on that will have a high degree of positive economic impact on Southern Nevada:
Funding for Interstate 11
While we have successfully built our share of I-11, we need to push for completion of the route from the Arizona border to Phoenix. The Vegas Chamber has joined with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry to coordinate and collaborate for additional funding for the next phase of construction from the border to Phoenix. Completing I-11 will add billions of dollars to our economy by better connecting Las Vegas to routes of trade that can bolster industries such as manufacturing and distribution. It will also help the Las Vegas tourism industry by making it easier for visitors to travel to our city from Phoenix and Tucson.
Business disruption insurance
One of the realizations as a result of COVID-19 is that most business disruption insurance policies that cover lost revenue and expenses as a result of some type of disaster do not typically include coverage in cases of a pandemic.
The reason is that most natural disasters tend to hit an individual business or region, while a pandemic impacts businesses globally. Business disruption insurance legislation would enable policies to include coverage in the case of a pandemic because the federal government would serve as a stop-gap for business losses.
By passing this federal legislation, businesses will be better protected in the future from the impact of a pandemic and have a better chance of surviving.
While Nevada passed limited liability protection for some businesses during the recent special session of the Legislature, enacting limited liability protection at the federal level is important. First, it would extend protections to all industries, including those in the health care sector. And it would create a standard across states, which is important to entities that have businesses and franchises in more than one state.
Increasing federal grant dollars in Nevada
Nevada businesses and individuals continue to pay more money in federal taxes than we get back as a state. This means that Nevadans pay for services such as health care, education, transportation and mental health that end up going to other states because our state does not apply for all of the federal funding for which it is eligible. It is estimated that more than $550 million annually is left on the table. And now, with the federal government passing an unprecedented amount federal spending through the CARES Act, Nevada may lose out on even more. While our federal delegation does a great job of doing all it can to access dollars for Nevada, we as a state need to work together to apply for more federal grant funds.
As part of our D.C. fly-in, we will explore how we as business and community leaders should change state policies and procedures to bring more of our tax dollars back to Nevada to fund some of our most critical needs.
More than ever, Nevada should work to strengthen its connections to Washington, D.C. National leaders need to hear from us about our state’s priorities so we don’t get left behind as our country rebuilds from the effects of COVID-19. Whether in person or via Zoom, Vegas needs to be in the room where it happens, making sure we are doing whatever it takes to make the most out of our federal resources. If you are a member of the Vegas Chamber or LGVEA, I invite you to join us and lend your voice.