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Utah events industry workers march to Capitol to ask for lawmakers' help

Posted at 5:07 PM, Jul 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-23 11:27:25-04

SALT LAKE CITY — People working in the hospitality, tourism and events industry are calling on state lawmakers for more funding as many struggle to make a living during the pandemic.

A group of people with the Utah Live Events Industry Association marched from the Salt Lake City and County Building to the Capitol Tuesday, in support of people working in the live events industry.

Concerts, rodeos and festivals have been canceled for much of the year all over the country, meaning people working in those industries are out of work.

“We have business owners that still have lease payments on warehouses, loan payments on the expensive gear, the staging, the lighting, the audio systems, those types of things," said Chris Martin, the vice president of the group. "These things are in jeopardy."

With federal funding ending at the end of July for people on unemployment, Peter O’Doherty, the president of Utah Live Events Industry Association, says he’s worried for the future of the hospitality industry.

“There’s about 49 million under-unemployed in America, and apparently 12 million of those are from the hospitality and tourism and events industry, so we make up a third at the moment of the unemployed in America," O'Doherty said. "It’s obvious Walmart is open, home improvement stores are open, restaurants have managed to open, and we’re not. So it’s huge — it’s really, really bad.”

O’Doherty says many businesses in the events industry likely won’t be able to work until March of 2021 because most events have been canceled until next year. Now, people working in those industries are struggling, trying to figure out how to pay their bills.

“There are people that are in careers that are permanently out of work for an extended period of time,” said Martin.

O’Doherty says he’s worried that when events can be held again, all the current people working in the industry will have already found jobs elsewhere and the tourism and events industry will lose skilled workers needed to put on large events like Sundance and the Olympics.

The silent march to the Capitol Tuesday was to bring awareness to the loss of jobs and ask lawmakers for more funding for people in these industries until the economy goes back to normal.