COVID-19 Guest Contributors Nonfood Northeast

Reflections On 2020 – Assessing Winners, Losers During Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic

New Hampshire
by John Dumais, president and CEO, New Hampshire Grocers Association

New Hampshire has proven it can handle the crush of political campaigns and voting even with new rules imposed by COVID-19. 

Incumbents who assisted their constituents during the pandemic were rewarded with political victories. We know firsthand our delegation in Washington was involved from the beginning with the New Hampshire Grocers Association. Lawmakers learned about grocers’ issues, as well as the food industry’s needs for assistance with PPE, guidance and financial grant opportunities.  

Within our borders, grocers maintained an aggressive approach to handling the pandemic. As a surge began, Gov. Chris Sununu reviewed and approved NHGA’s industry guidelines to protect the food supply and the safety of customers. 

The association activated its emergency operations center, which became a conduit to the state department of safety’s EOC, Homeland Security, the governor’s office for emergency relief and recovery and state lawmakers.

Each of these entities held several virtual meetings with association members to understand their challenges. They offered assistance to food processors, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and their essential employees. 

For its part, NHGA was well equipped to field hundreds of member inquiries about interpretation and compliance of ever-changing emergency stipulations.

Grocers in general have been fortunate. Yearly sales have been 25 percent higher than projected. This was driven by the required closure of non-essential businesses and government stay-at-home orders. 

Prior to the first wave of the virus, New Hampshire had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. Grocers saw labor improve as students began ending their school year and re-applied for summer jobs. 

As winter approaches, employment has reversed again as students are back in school or remote-learning. Others are not working for health reasons or have been relying on unemployment stimulus checks. 

The result for food stores means less labor available to accommodate increased customer demands for products and services.

In the meantime, NHGA joined other food trade associations across the country to support passage of the $2.2 trillion HEROES Act, which was approved by the U.S. House on Oct. 1.

In Concord, the state legislature recently received welcome news from the state supreme court as it decided the 400-member body could hold sessions remotely. 

When it begins its 2021-22 session in January, public hearings along with state House and Senate sessions on proposed bills will be different for residents and lawmakers. 

NHGA’s five-member lobbying team, RYP Granite Strategies, will be a huge benefit in representing grocers’ interests throughout the session. 

The firm will again hold weekly meetings with all interested NHGA supplier and retailer members. This year, all meetings will be virtual and last about 30 minutes every Monday morning during the session. 

New this year – a monthly “significant guest” presentation that addresses a state legislative or regulatory issue important to the food industry. The only cost to members remains a 30-minute weekly briefing.

Business leaders benefit the most when informed and involved in issues impacting their profitability. Contact New Hampshire Grocers Association for details on how to participate. 

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