Washington, D.C.—A bipartisan pair of lawmakers from Pennsylvania yesterday introducedlegislation which would exempt the wages earned by frontline workers in the convenience and grocery industry, and their suppliers, from federal income tax in 2020.
The Giving Retailers and Our Convenience Employees Relief Act (GROCER Act), introduced by representatives G.T. Thompson (R-PA) and Dwight Evans (D-PA), would exempt the wages earned between February 15, 2020, and June 15, 2020, by many of the heroes who are keeping America running during this crisis from being calculated into adjusted gross income for federal income tax purposes. Should this proposal become law, it would immediately provide additional take-home pay for these frontline workers via adjusting their withholdings.
The Pennsylvania congressmen hope to see this proposal included in what is being referred to as the “phase IV” stimulus bill currently being developed in Congress. Eligible employees would be anyone in the convenience or grocery industries working in a county with at least one confirmed COVID-19 case. Such employees would be able to exempt up to $25,000 in income from their 2020 federal income taxes during that four-month period. The Legislation allows the U.S. Treasury Secretary to extend the relief for up to an additional 3 months, with the cap increasing by $6,250 per month. Unless individual states enact similar legislation, these wages still would count for any state taxation purposes.
The average salary of a c-store manager last year was $47,429, according to the NACS State of the Industry Compensation Report of 2019 Data. The average full-time associate wage was $11.75 an hour, the 2019 report indicates.
“Grocery and convenience store workers are among the unsung heroes of our battle with COVID-19 and have played a vital role in the national food supply chain,” said Rep. Thompson. “The GROCER Act is a simple way of saying ‘thank you’ to the men and women who put themselves on the front lines, sanitizing, stocking, and serving communities by putting a little more of their hard earned money back in their paychecks.”
Rep. Evans said, “Our grocery and convenience store employees are serving on the front lines, making sure the rest of us have the food and other crucial supplies we need to get through this pandemic. This bipartisan four-month income-tax holiday would be a way to thank these vital workers and help them meet their own needs,” he said.
“Convenience store associates are indeed on the front line of the COVID-19 crisis in every community around the country by providing the food, fuel and necessities required by their customers,” said Henry Armour, CEO, NACS. “The relief provided by the GROCER Act is a welcome response to these heroes who have continued to serve their communities.”
The exact timing of when Congress will finalize a new stimulus package remains unclear. Neither chamber is expected to be back in session until May, but that date may be pushed back.