By Molly Pfaffenroth, NGA Senior Director of Government Relations
2021 presents a new Congress, a new administration and a new opportunity for NGA to ensure the priorities of the independent supermarket industry are heard by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were sworn into office at the U.S. Capitol by a peaceful transfer of power exactly two weeks after rioters raided the very same spot. Just hours after the ceremony concluded, NGA sent a welcome letter to President Biden’s chief of staff and other members of his team congratulating him on his election victory, introducing them to NGA and outlining the priorities of the independent supermarket industry. NGA also offered its support and assistance in helping the administration restore the economy during this unprecedented and challenging time.
Although President Biden and Vice President Harris have only been in office for a few days, they have a long list of policy goals they hope to achieve, including tackling COVID-19, vaccine distribution and feeding hungry Americans throughout the coming months. With grocers serving at the front lines of the pandemic throughout the past 10 months, NGA has a unique opportunity to showcase our industry to the new administration while working together on issues we are aligned on and playing defense on areas of disagreement.
In NGA’s letter to the president and vice president, we highlighted how independent grocers have gone above and beyond during the pandemic to reward their employees for their hard work in serving their communities. In fact, a recent NGA/FMS Solutions study shows that more than 85 percent of independent grocers have been paying associates above their current hourly rates or salaries, including an additional $2 per hour hero pay, gift card bonuses, lump sum bonuses and other benefits throughout the pandemic. However, we feel that the government needs to step up to the plate and provide these frontline grocery workers with gross income tax and temporary payroll tax relief.
NGA also mentioned the critical need for liability protections for independent grocers operating in good faith during the pandemic. Further, NGA detailed the independent grocery industry’s unique and essential role in feeding hungry Americans through their partnership in federal nutrition programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), as well as the need to level the playing for independents launching SNAP online purchasing.
NGA also emphasized that any additional regulations or increased taxes to grocers would negatively impact smaller grocers and ultimately local communities, citing that grocers operate on slim 1 to 2 percent profit margins and there is fierce competition among food retailers. Additionally, NGA called for the administration’s help in making the card payments marketplace more competitive and secure for consumers, merchants, banks and the economy.
Finally, NGA addressed the impracticality of raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, as well as the need for antitrust reform that addresses power buyers and discriminatory vertical conduct by dominant firms that undermines the competitiveness of small and medium-size independent grocers.
NGA will be working diligently throughout the coming months to ensure that independent grocers’ voices are heard by lawmakers. Please click here to view a copy of the letter that NGA sent to President Biden and Vice President Harris earlier this week.