The convenience services industry is facing a new world in Washington. President-elect Joe Biden became President Biden on Jan. 20 after he took the oath of office to become the nation's 46th commander in chief. Before that, the 117th Congress convened on Jan. 3.
Since then, the National Automatic Merchandising Association, the industry’s main advocacy group, has been hard at work assessing its priorities during first 100 days of the new administration and calibrating its strategies in the new political landscape.
Two months into the new administration and Congress, Vending Market Watch spoke with NAMA external affairs director Mike Goscinski to get his take on the latest goings-on.
Hi Mike. In the first 100 days of the 46th president, most attention has been placed on how Joe Biden will reshape policy and politics with a narrowly won Democratic Congress and deeply divided nation. What is NAMA looking at during this telltale period – as it relates to the industry?
NAMA is focusing on ways the industry can proactively work with the administration and serve as a resource in its initiatives. One thing that we know for certain is that COVID-19 is front of mind for everyone.
Operators have had a difficult year with so many client locations, such as office buildings, being shuttered. As the administration works through stimulus implementation, we want to make sure that NAMA is at the table and securing the most aid for the industry as possible.
In tandem, we want to ensure that administration officials see the industry and NAMA as a resource as it works to re-open and restart the economy. Unattended retail has been a pivotal resource throughout the pandemic, and it certainly can assist as schools, offices, and amusement locations start return to normal.
We are also looking for proactive opportunities to work with the administration and Congress on its priorities – particularly in its approach to climate and infrastructure.
What's happening with the Paycheck Protection Program?
NAMA was among the organizations pushing for an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program deadline. As you may have seen, the U.S. House just last week passed an extension to May 31.
While we were pushing for an extension until the end of the year (Dec. 31), this is a good outcome. This will allow small businesses that have not yet applied for loans to continue pursuing relief, and it will allow for the allocated funds for the program to be focused and spent as intended.
I foresee the Senate taking the PPP legislation up quickly and sending it over to President Biden’s desk for signature. NAMA will continue to push for the bill’s passage until it is signed.
Climate is among the biggest priorities for the Biden administration. What are the biggest environmental issues related to the industry?
One thing that is certain is that climate is going to be front and center in every policy initiative of the Bide administration. NAMA is looking at areas that we can work with the White House, Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency. For example, around the phase out of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) refrigerants, most commonly used in vending machines and bottle coolers.
At the end of 2020, legislation directing the the EPA to phase out the use of HFCs by 2035 was included in a broader spending package. The industry has an opportunity to lead here thanks to a major victory NAMA had in 2020, which amended U.S. safety standard (UL and ASHRAE) to allow equipment cooled with R-290 (propane) to be placed in public buildings.
This will allow NAMA to promote the industry as leading the way in energy efficiency.
We also continue to monitor single-use plastic bans, recycling bills and other policies that would impact the industry to stay out in front as the voice of convenience services and make sure the industry is protected.
Is there anything in the recently passed $1.9 trillion/relief package that will benefit our industry?
Yes, there is a provision of the stimulus package that sets up $28.5 billion in support for small restaurants and foodservice providers. NAMA is seeking clarification as the U.S. Small Business Administration prepares guidance to ensure operators are not excluded from access to grants.
Recently, NAMA president and chief executive Carla Balakgie sent a letter to the newly confirmed SBA Administrator urging the clarification. NAMA has also opened its grassroots action center for members to send emails to legislators and SBA pushing for clarity in the guidance.