STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (WTAJ) — The Nittany Lion Inn, closed since mid-March, will remain closed but the hotel’s 223 rooms will instead be used as isolation spaces during the coronavirus pandemic.
Penn State officials made the announcement Monday, June 22, during a virtual town hall with President Eric Barron
While the University is looking for alternative work for displaced employees in Housing and Food Services, the closure of the hotel will result in layoffs for some hotel employees. Despite the hotel’s closure in March, Inn employees continued to receive their full salary through May 3. From May 4 through June 30, employees who could not work remotely and did not have work to perform on campus have continued to receive 50% of their salaries, as well as benefits based on that pay.
Coupled with federal stimulus money, this has kept Inn employees largely whole, even with no revenue from the hotel. Staff employees will continue to receive 50% of their salary, and benefits based on that salary, through July 31. The University is in discussions with the Teamsters regarding how this will affect employees covered by the labor agreement.
“The financial and other impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on the University are forcing Penn State to make many hard decisions, and this one is among the most difficult because of how it affects our dedicated employees,” said Penn State President Eric J. Barron. “While we had hoped to reopen both of our hotels and return to full operations, extremely challenging financial conditions and the need for isolation space ultimately compelled us to make this decision. I know this is difficult news for employees of the Inn, and, while it is not much consolation at this time, I sincerely thank them for their years of committed service to the University.”
Officials project that the coronavirus pandemic is expected to have a more than $260 million impact on the University over the next year in losses and additional costs. Further, Penn State’s hotels are self-sustaining, using their own revenues to pay for expenses, so tuition and other funds cannot be used to keep the hotels open.
Although Penn State is using half of the $55 million it received from the federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund to support employees and lessen the impacts of the pandemic on the University’s workforce, these federal funds cannot be used to pay the salaries of University hospitality workers.
Starting this fall, the Inn’s guestrooms will be used as isolation rooms as needed, for students who may contract COVID-19. With a bathroom in each guestroom, hotels are suitable spaces for isolation as long as other hotel guests are not present.
Housing and Food Services and some existing Nittany Lion Inn staff will provide services, as needed, to individuals isolating in guestrooms.
At this time, the Penn Stater Hotel & Conference Center is expected to reopen in July.