Leading food retail trade groups FMI-The Food Industry Association (FM) and the National Grocers Association (NGA) today welcomed newly inaugurated U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Retail giant Amazon, parent of Whole Foods Market, also extended congratulations to the new presidential administration and offered Biden assistance in achieving one of his top priorities: administering 100 million COVID-19 vaccines to Americans in his first 100 days in office.
“We look forward to working with the newly elected president, vice president and members of Congress on issues impacting the food industry, their customers and communities and ensuring the voice of the food industry is represented authentically on Capitol Hill, to the White House, and throughout the executive branch,” FMI President and CEO Leslie Sarasin said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon, following the inaugural ceremonies at the U.S. Capitol.
FMI said it’s “pleased” that the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are finalizing their congressional committees and will soon begin work as the 117th Congress. Also on Wednesday, Harris inaugurated new Democratic Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff of Georgia and Alex Padilla of California.
“Whether it’s during a natural disaster or a national emergency, the food industry continues to do what it does best: care for its customers and the communities it serves,” Sarasin said. “Thousands of grocery workers day-in and day-out have paid attention to the details of their work to safeguard their customers’ access to safe and affordable food all across America throughout this nearly year-long pandemic.”
Meanwhile, NGA said it looks forward to working with the Biden administration on initiatives important to independent grocery retailers and their communities. NGA President and CEO Greg Ferrara outlined the legislative priorities of association members in a letter to Biden and Harris.
“NGA and its members — many of them family owners with multiple generations invested in serving and supporting local communities — are committed to working with you and your administration as we strive to grow local economies across the country grappling with one of the greatest challenges in a generation,” Ferrara stated. “From supermarkets to distribution centers, grocery workers have toiled on the front lines during this pandemic, dedicated to feeding our nation.”
In the letter, NGA cited independent grocery industry priorities such as employee tax relief, liability protection, assistance with accepting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for online purchases, credit card fees, the minimum wage and enforcement of antitrust laws.
“NGA stands ready to work with your administration to serve the American people throughout the pandemic and beyond,” Ferrara added.
Amazon posted a welcome letter to Biden on Wednesday and said the Seattle-based company can lend a hand in providing more COVID-19 vaccinations to Americans.
“Congratulations to you and Vice President Harris on your inauguration. As you begin your work leading the country out of the COVID-19 crisis, Amazon stands ready to assist you in reaching your goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans in the first 100 days of your administration,” Amazon Worldwide Consumer CEO Dave Clark wrote in the letter.
“We have an agreement in place with a licensed third-party occupational health care provider to administer vaccines on-site at our Amazon facilities. We are prepared to move quickly once vaccines are available,” Clark explained. “Additionally, we are prepared to leverage our operations, information technology, and communications capabilities and expertise to assist your administration's vaccination efforts. Our scale allows us to make a meaningful impact immediately in the fight against COVID-19, and we stand ready to assist you in this effort.
“Since the beginning of this crisis, we have worked hard to keep our workers safe. We are committed to assisting your administration’s vaccination efforts as we work together to protect our employees and continue to provide essential services during the pandemic,” he added.
Clark also noted that most of Amazon’s 800,000-plus U.S. employees are essential workers who can’t work from home and, as a result, are one of the priority groups for receiving coronavirus immunizations.
“We are proud of the role our employees have played to help customers stay safe and receive important products and services at home, which is critical for people with underlying medical conditions and those susceptible to complications from COVID-19,” he said in the letter. “The essential employees working at Amazon fulfillment centers, AWS data centers and Whole Foods Market stores across the country who cannot work from home should receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the earliest appropriate time. We will assist them in that effort.”
FMI’s Sarasin underscored the pivotal role that supermarket pharmacies will play in COVID-19 vaccine distribution and in getting shots into the arms of Americans.
“While 2020 has presented a once-in-a-lifetime challenge, the food industry stands ready as essential partners to not only provide food and household products now, but also to serve as safe, convenient places for customers to receive the COVID-19 vaccines in the weeks and months ahead,” she commented. “Our 12,000 supermarket pharmacies are working fervently to get Americans vaccinated as safely and efficiently as possible while utilizing different types of vaccines. As trusted health care providers to their customers, supermarket pharmacies already provide comprehensive immunization services and counseling to their customers. According to FMI research, supermarket pharmacies currently provide 20% of the nation’s flu vaccines. It is essential that supermarket pharmacies and the broader food industry be part of the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination effort.”
The National Retail Federation (NRF) and the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) also chimed in on Biden’s first official action as president to slow the pandemic. The retail trade groups on Wednesday issued statements expressing support for his first executive order, which requires people to wear face masks on all federal properties and calls on Americans to wear masks for 100 days to help flatline COVID-19 transmission.
“As the first industry group to call for nationwide mask wearing, NRF appreciates the executive action today by the Biden Administration that calls for a 100-day mask-wearing challenge, including the requirement that masks be worn on federal property and on airlines, trains and transit systems that travel between states,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay stated. “This is an important development as we turn the page on how we message and engage in the fight against the pandemic. Masks are medically proven to reduce transmission of the virus and help slow the spread of COVID-19.”
RILA President Brian Dodge noted that Biden’s executive order to require masks in federal spaces reflects investments and policies that retailers have enacted during the pandemic to protect employees and customers.
“Until the vaccination campaign has immunized enough Americans to stop the spread of COVID-19, commonsense tactics that promote good hygiene, responsible distancing, and wearing masks are still the best way to keep communities safe,” Dodge explained. “We encourage Congress to build on the president’s order by urgently appropriating the additional resources needed by state and local governments, medical systems, and pharmacies to increase the pace of vaccinations."
“These funds should be prioritized over areas where legitimate public policy differences may require additional time and debate,” he added. “America has relied on millions of retail workers to stock shelves, deliver goods, clean stores and provide American families with everything they have needed throughout this pandemic. These frontline workers who have kept our supply chains functioning and our storefronts open need Congress to make vaccine funding their top priority.”