On March 19, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) president Jane Frederick and CEO Robert Ivy sent a letter on behalf of the organization to Congress regarding the economic impact that the novel coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19, will have on the architecture profession with suggestions for an economic stimulus package. Representing around 95,000 members, making it the largest design organization in the United States, the letter implores Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to provide temporary relief measures for business owners and to make a long-term investment in 21st-century infrastructure.
To address the already-felt economic impact of the pandemic on building design and construction, the first initiative requests an investment in Small Business Interruption Loans for businesses under 500 employees. Providing relief in the short run, the letter contends, will allow employers to avoid layoffs while covering costs associated with payroll, rent, and other obligations in the immediate term. “Furthermore,” the letter reads, “the federal government should suspend the collection of business taxes, including payroll tax, for the duration of the pandemic.”
The second initiative speaks to both the current needs and future threats facing America’s built environment, including climate change and sea-level rise. “This global pandemic has laid bare the preexisting resource shortage currently facing many of these facilities,” the letter reads. “Looking to the future, the World Health Organization (WHO) has predicted that climate change will contribute to worsening storms and more frequent pandemics. Buildings must be resilient in the face of these disasters while also not contributing to the underlying problem by generating greenhouse gas emissions and unhealthy air quality. We must expect more from the built environment than ever before.” The letter estimates that the government should invest a minimum of $300 million over five years towards the construction of resilient and sustainable public buildings.
These two measures, the AIA argues, will “provide necessary relief in the short-term, reassurance to global markets, and will help prepare this country for the challenges ahead.” Congress has not yet offered a response.
The letter was sent to Congress only four days after the AIA announced that it would postpone its 2020 National Conference in Los Angeles to reduce the spread of coronavirus.