NGA Outlines COVID Priorities to Congress

Arlington, VA – The National Grocers Association (NGA), the trade association representing the independent supermarket industry, sent a letter to congressional leadership outlining the top priorities of independent grocers in the upcoming coronavirus relief economic stimulus package: rewarding essential frontline workers, limiting liability exposure of essential businesses and expanding nutritional access for hungry Americans.

“The independent supermarket industry continues to experience ongoing and unexpected challenges as it works tirelessly to feed the American public,” NGA President and CEO Greg Ferrara wrote in the letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

To help grocers continue to meet these challenges, NGA urges quick and decisive action on three key pieces of legislation:

–          The AG CHAIN Act (H.R. 6841), introduced by Reps. Thompson (R-PA) and Evans (D-PA), a bill that provides an exclusion from gross income taxes and temporary payroll tax relief to essential food and agriculture workers. 

–          The Get America Back to Work Act (H.R. 7528), a bipartisan bill introduced by Reps. Cuellar (D-TX) and Graves (R-LA), which would help ensure grocers are protected if they made their best efforts to comply with federal, state and local guidance.

–          Inclusion of the Expanding SNAP Option Acts (H.R. 7535 / S. 4202) in the relief package, to expand consumer access to online SNAP by providing grocers with technical assistance to help in implementing an online program and deferring expensive startup costs for retailers that lack capacity and resources necessary to get online.

Additionally, NGA urges Congress to consider modifying the unemployment insurance (UI) program if additional benefits are extended beyond their July 31 expiration. A cap on total unemployment benefits at a certain percentage of the applicant’s previous compensation level should be considered as an alternative to the current policy of offering additional benefits that have shown to be a disincentive to continuing or returning to work.

“The industry’s ability to meet our customers’ needs would not be possible without the dedicated and talented frontline workers who show up to work every day to move product and keep store shelves stocked,” Ferrara wrote in support of the AG CHAIN Act. “While most grocers have increased pay and provided bonuses to their employees, the federal government should also recognize these individuals’ sacrifices.”

Despite being designated as critical infrastructure, Ferrara noted, “grocers are under threat of frivolous litigation simply for remaining open during the pandemic. NGA is requesting that Congress protect essential infrastructure business from unnecessary liability exposure provided these businesses took reasonable steps to comply with the guidance from the CDC or other health authorities.”

In addition to making the Online SNAP program more accessible for independents, NGA also requests that Congress consider emergency funding to help shore up the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, a popular program that increases the purchasing power of SNAP customers when they buy healthy fruits and vegetables. 

The full text of the letter is available here.