By Leslie Sarasin, President and CEO, FMI 

grocery worker during covid

Nine in 10 registered voters consider food supply chain workers — grocery store workers (93%), agricultural and food production workers (90), and farm workers (89%) —"essential” amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey performed by Morning Consult for the International Dairy Foods Association. The survey further states that a strong majority of registered voters support offering temporary tax relief to essential workers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Indeed, our industry has risen to the occasion and managed the challenges that have emerged during this national emergency. The grocery industry and the food supply chain that supports it have worked tirelessly to keep food available to American customers during the COVID-19 pandemic in spite of tremendous challenges. Like most Americans, we at FMI support the FRNT LINE Act because it appropriately recognizes these efforts and gives our associates well-deserved tax relief for their commitment to ensuring that grocery stores are open and stocked continuously during this national emergency. We greatly appreciate Senator Joni Ernst’s (R-IA) leadership on this important legislation.

At the start of the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security stated that our industry had a “special responsibility” to maintain a regular work schedule. As a result, FMI members have remained open and staffed, serving the public while taking unprecedented measures to do so. Our members are dedicated to protecting public health, taking measures to mitigate the risk of infection among their associates and customers. Proactively, grocery stores have marked six-foot intervals in stores; installed barriers when possible; limited the number of customers in stores simultaneously; turned some store aisles in to one-way passages; reminded customers of social distancing via in-store announcements, signage and even t-shirts in some areas; expanded pickup and delivery services when possible; closed stores early for overnight cleaning and stocking when conditions warranted; and practiced federally-approved cleaning and sanitization methods in warehouses and facilities over hundreds of hours.

In real-time, grocers and their supply chain partners have had to rewrite their playbooks on crisis response. We had a special responsibility to do so, but it takes the right partners in government and across the private sector working together to be successful. I recently participated in an event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation that highlighted the collaboration required among private, public, and nonprofit sectors to help mitigate the effects of all disasters. The live session was moderated by Director, U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Christopher Krebs, and included FMI, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Trucking Associations. We explored the process of classifying essential jobs to ensure the continuity of services critical to response efforts. You can re-watch the session here on YouTube.

I am grateful for the leadership demonstrated by FMI’s member companies and the commitment of their dedicated workforce to ensure families have continued to have access to food during this unprecedented emergency. I hope you will join our efforts to support tax relief for our industry’s heroes by writing to Congress today to express your support for the FRNT LINE Act.