Bill will assist grocery workers
Glenn Thompson, a Centre County Republican who represents the sprawling 14-county 15th District in the U.S. House, has teamed up with a Philadelphia Democrat to help out grocery and convenience store employees.
"We introduced the Giving Retailers and Our Convenience Employees Relief (GROCER) Act today (Tuesday)," said Thompson.
"It would give a federal tax holiday for grocery and convenience store employees from Feb. 15 through June 15 for individuals making less than $75,000 a year."
Thompson, who along with Congressman Dwight Evans created and sponsored the bill, described those employees as "unsung heroes of our battle with COVID-19 (who) have played a vital role in the national food supply chain."
Those jobs, often low-paying, include sanitizing, stocking and serving communities at grocery stores and convenience stores.
"What prompted me in part was my family experience," said Thompson. "I have a son in the military and a daughter-in-law who served and when they were overseas, they had a federal tax holiday. It was like a thank you for stepping up. It struck me that were are a lot of people stepping up, from those in nursing homes, correctional facilities, hospitals, responders."
Included in that roster are a "group that is unfortunately not fully appreciated," said Thompson.
"All our employees in those food stores. They have a significant impact on the public, are exposed to the public maybe in a way that other workers are not So it made sense to me to offer it up to those folks. This is an act of appreciation," said Thompson.
The bill has drawn support from the the National Grocers Association, the National Association of Convenience Stores and the National Association of Truckstop Operators.
"Travel center employees are on the front lines of America's fight against COVID-19, ensuring that our nation's truck drivers have places to eat, rest and refuel as they deliver food and other essential supplies throughout the country," said Lisa Mullings, CEO of the truckstop operators organization.
In enlisting Evans' support, Thompson said he wanted to ensure the legislation is bipartisan. The duo is encouraging co-sponsors for the GROCER bill that could be tacked on to future federal packages focused on economic relief and recovery.
"We've been averaging a couple of weeks between pieces of legislation so there will be opportunities for this bill," said Thompson, adding he will also work to push the U.S. Treasury to extend the benefit for an additional three months.
While the GROCER bill is designed to "put a little more of their hard-earned money back in their paychecks," it is also about building morale, said Thompson.
"There is an underlying morale issue here, too," said the congressman. "These people are considered life-essential employees because of where they work. They make sure our cupboards are stocked and they are going to work every day, interacting with the public. They can't telecommute, they're not on unemployment, and they look around at other people getting paid for staying home and working. And they don't make a lot of money. I think we need this for them."