The National Grocers Association, the trade association representing the independent supermarket industry, offered a statement in response to the COVID relief package Congress passed the night of Dec. 21.
“While we appreciate the bipartisan effort to provide much-needed economic relief to the American people, the bill unfortunately falls short of the needed liability protections critical to independent grocers,” said NGA President and CEO Greg Ferrara. “Independent supermarkets have led the way in keeping workers and customers safe and have remained open when their communities need them most. It is unacceptable for Congress to leave open the floodgates for frivolous litigation to be levied against independent community businesses simply for staying open during the crisis.”
NGA had requested that Congress protect grocers from unnecessary liability exposure, provided these businesses have taken reasonable steps to comply with guidance from the CDC or other health authorities. Although liability protections were not included in the final COVID relief package, the legislation featured key wins in the nutrition arena for which NGA lobbied. Specifically, the legislation provides new opportunities for independent grocers to participate in nutrition incentive projects and the SNAP Online program.
“NGA is pleased that Congress included funding to help independent grocers enroll in the SNAP Online purchasing program, as well as an additional $75 million to bolster the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program,” said Chris Jones, NGA’s SVP of government relations and counsel. “To date, independents have faced an uphill climb to participate in the SNAP online program, and non-federal funding shortfalls have stalled promising SNAP fruit and vegetable retailer incentive projects. This bill moves us in the right direction.”
In addition to the nutrition victories, the stimulus legislation includes numerous provisions that will positively impact independent grocers and their customers, including:
- A 15 percent increase in SNAP benefit allotments;
- Additional funding for nutritional assistance to Puerto Rico;
- Unemployment compensation extension that supports jobless workers while removing disincentives for returning to the workforce;
- A termination of the FFCRA paid leave mandate on small business while extending tax credits to allow small businesses the flexibility to offer paid leave;
- Deductibility of PPP expenses and simplified forgiveness options;
- Extensions of the New Market Tax Credit and the Work Opportunity Tax Credit; and
- Funding for vaccine development and distribution to frontline workers.
While the stimulus bill was a necessary response to the ongoing fight against the pandemic and faltering economy, NGA has pledged to keep fighting for independent grocer priorities in the next Congress. In addition to needed liability protections, NGA continues to support tax relief for frontline essential grocery workers. The association reaffirmed its coronavirus priorities in a recent letter to Congressional negotiators. The full text of the letter can be read here.
NGA members include retail and wholesale grocers, state grocers associations, as well as manufacturers and service suppliers. For more information about NGA, visit nationalgrocers.org.