More than 230 supermarket retailers and wholesalers from 143 companies and food industry state association executives from across the nation connected virtually this week with Members of Congress during the annual “Day in Washington” supermarket industry fly-in. Members of the National Grocers Association (NGA) and the Food Industry Association (FMI) participated in more than 220 meetings with Members of Congress and legislative staff to advocate for key policy issues impacting the supermarket industry.
Grocers focused on legislative issues important to their businesses, such as reforming the U.S. card payments system, maintaining a fair tax code, eliminating pharmacy direct and indirect remuneration (DIR) fees, and strengthening federal nutrition programs. “This year’s virtual fly-in was a great opportunity for my fellow grocers and I to share our personal experiences during the pandemic to our elected representatives,” said Tom Charley, of Greensburg, PA-based Charley Family Shop N’ Save. “The policies decided on Capitol Hill play a huge role in determining the success of my business.”
Grocers encouraged Congress to investigate anticompetitive practices in the credit card industry. The grocery industry is a highly competitive market with slim profit margins. While grocers constantly find ways to generate savings to pass along to their customers, one expense that has continued to grow is the price of accepting credit cards. Applied to millions of transactions each day, interchange or swipe fees accounted for more than $90 billion of the overall $116.4 billion in card processing fees – usually the second or third highest cost of doing business behind wages and health benefits.
Several grocers shared their experiences partnering with federal nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT). Grocers underscored the important role these programs play in helping grocers feed their communities. Attendees applauded members of Congress for allocating funds to provide technical assistance for grocers facing challenges in becoming authorized to accept SNAP EBT payments online and encouraged Congress to extend the P-EBT program and to eliminate red tape and bureaucracy in WIC.
Finally, attendees encouraged Congress to pass legislation to reduce their costs for protecting employees and consumers from COVID-19, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitizer, safety retrofits, and cleaning expenses. The Healthy Workplaces Act would accomplish these goals by helping grocers adapt and recover by providing a 50% tax credit for PPE expenses. Grocers also advised members of Congress against raising the corporate income tax. The current tax rate has allowed businesses to reinvest in their stores, including spending $24 billion in 2020 on safety measures to keep employees and customers safe. Imposing tax increases on top of the uncertainty caused by the pandemic would make it harder for grocers to feed their communities during a time of worsening food insecurity.
While we would have preferred to gather in person, this year’s virtual fly-in was a great way for NGA members to get in front of Congress to make their voices heard. This event is not the only way to raise issues of importance to your elected representatives. If you would like to arrange a store or facility tour with your Members of Congress, please reach out to Terence Huie, NGA’s PAC and Grassroots Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.