OPINION | Bipartisan GROCER Act would give tax break to frontline workers
The hard-working women and men stocking our shelves and staffing grocery checkouts are some of the most unsung heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic. In many cases, these frontline workers are even putting in overtime to sanitize, stock, and serve our communities to ensure we have the resources we need to weather this storm, including one of the most basic needs -- food. In times of crisis like these, we learn to fully appreciate these workers.
To back up our “thank yous” with concrete action, we have introduced The Giving Retailers and Our Convenience Employees Relief (GROCER) Act of 2020. The bill would provide grocery and convenience store employees a federal income tax holiday for four months while they work through the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, this bill would:
- Allow any grocery or convenience store employee who works in a county with at least one confirmed case of COVID-19 to receive a four-month holiday from federal income tax. These stores would be defined using codes from the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS).
- Provide provisions that are back-dated from Feb. 15, 2020 and extend to June 15, 2020.
- Give the secretary of the Treasury the power to extend this income tax holiday for another up to three months if needed.
- Include annual salaries up to $75,000 in this federal income tax exclusion, which would amount to $25,000 for the four-month time period.
This common-sense legislation follows a similar provision for active military members in combat zones. Currently, when a member of the military is serving in an area designated by the Department of Defense as a combat zone or is serving in direct support of military operations in the combat zone, their income during that period will generally qualify to be excluded from federal income tax.
The GROCER Act is a simple “thank you” to the frontline employees who play a valuable role in our food supply chain. This bill is the least we can do to begin to alleviate the burden on these employees who are risking exposure to provide us with critical goods and services. A federal tax holiday for these workers would put more of their hard-earned money back into their pockets to support themselves and their families. Many of these workers struggle to get by even in the good times.
These workers have put themselves in harm’s way, day after day, to keep us all fed during the most serious crisis our nation has faced since 9/11. Many of us have been able to do most of our work from the safety of home, but the nature of these workers’ jobs precludes that.
This bill is something we should all be able to agree on, and we would welcome its inclusion in a future Covid-19 relief package.