Legislative Updates

February 22, 2021

Raising Prices Won’t Cover Higher Labor Costs, National Restaurant Association Says

The National Restaurant Association released the findings of a nationwide survey of 2,000 restaurant operators asking what impact passage of the Raise the Wage Act would have on their ability to recover this year. The association sent a letter to congressional leaders citing the survey results to urge that the measure be removed from the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan.    

“Passage of this bill this year would lead to job losses and higher use of labor-reducing equipment and technology,” said Sean Kennedy, executive vice president for public affairs for the National Restaurant Association. “Nearly all restaurant operators say they will increase menu prices. But what is clear is that raising prices for consumers will not be enough for restaurants to absorb higher labor costs.” 

Highlights of the survey findings in the letter include:

  • 82 percent of operators say the initial wage increases would have a negative impact on their restaurant’s ability to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. For franchisee-owned restaurants, 90 percent say the initial wage increases would have a negative impact on their ability to recover. 
  • Raising the federal minimum wage and eliminating the tip credit would force nearly all (98 percent) restaurant operators to increase their menu prices; 84 percent would have to cut jobs and employee hours from normal levels; and 75 percent would have to cut employee benefits. Full-service and franchisee-owned restaurants are most likely to have to make changes that impact their workforce if the federal minimum wage is increased or the tip credit is eliminated. 
  • 65 percent of operators are likely to add labor-reducing equipment or technology.

“The survey results make it crystal clear that the restaurant industry and our workforce will suffer from a fast-tracked wage increase and elimination of the tip credit,” Kennedy concluded. “Restaurant jobs will be critical to every local community recovering from the pandemic, but the Raise the Wage Act will negate the stimulative impact of a worthy plan. We share your view that a national discussion of wage issues for working Americans is needed – but the Raise the Wage Act is the wrong bill at the wrong time for our nation’s restaurants.”

The Raise the Wage Act would gradually increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, more than double the current $7.25 an hour, over five years. It also eliminates a separate minimum wage for tipped workers. Most tipped servers make between $19-$25 per hour under the current tipped credit system, according to the National Restaurant Association.

February 22, 2021

Blueprint for State and Local Restaurant Recovery Urges Grants and Tax Relief

Since the pandemic began nearly a year ago, more than 110,000 restaurants have closed and 2.5 million restaurant employees remain unemployed. Returning to pre-pandemic levels will require the support of state and local governments, which is why the National Restaurant Association has launched the Blueprint for State and Local Restaurant Recovery and sent a letter to Greg Fischer, president of the United States Conference of Mayors.

The initiative urges lawmakers in legislatures and city councils across the country to take action that will help the restaurant industry survive the winter and ongoing pandemic. This may include:

  • Creating grants, tax credits, and tax breaks for restaurants and employees
  • Extending to-go cocktails or making them permanent
  • Providing property tax relief
  • Fully funding tourism promotion programs for 2021 and beyond

To amplify this effort, the National Restaurant Association is asking businesses to sign this petition calling on local leaders to act.

February 22, 2021

Potential Revisions for Refrigerators, Freezers, Ovens; Electric Cooktops Considered for New Category

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regularly updates ENERGY STAR product specifications. For every specification, product performance data submissions from partners are foundational to the process. Proposed efficiency levels tend to be based on the performance of existing certified models as well as data offered by manufacturers and other stakeholders during the specification development process.

Establishing requirements that reflect the performance of the highest efficiency models available sometimes requires going beyond the data at hand and anticipating the market. To this end, the EPA relies on insights shared by stakeholders and partners to anticipate important trends in the market. For more information, you can view EPA’s ENERGY STAR specification Standard Operating Procedure on Revising or Establishing an ENERGY STAR Product Specification.

The following information includes some helpful reminders regarding upcoming specification changes to ENERGY STAR certified products.

ENERGY STAR Version 5.0 Commercial Refrigerators and Freezers Discussion Guide and Webinars
The ENERGY STAR Version 5.0 Commercial Refrigerators and Freezers Discussion Guide was released on Dec. 22, 2020. The discussion guide outlines potential scope changes to the existing Version 4.0 specification. It provides acknowledgment of possible revisions to current ENERGY STAR Maximum Daily Energy Consumption (MDEC) levels for select types of commercial refrigeration equipment. Additional information and discussion questions regarding new equipment classes, such as specific remote condensing and service over counter refrigeration equipment; review of test methods for refrigerated preparation tables, chef bases, blast chillers; and potentially a commercial refrigeration development equipment best practice guide. A PDF copy of the presentation slides from both webinars can be found on the Commercial Refrigerators and Freezers Specification Version 5.0 page. This product development web page will post future specification drafts, comments, data packages, and responses to comments. EPA strongly encourages partners and stakeholders to review the Discussion Guide and provide any feedback or relevant data to cfs@energystar.gov by Feb. 23, 2021.

ENERGY STAR Version 3.0 Commercial Ovens Draft 1
ENERGY STAR Version 3.0 Commercial Ovens Draft 1 development is underway with an anticipated release this year. This revision is in response to the relatively high ENERGY STAR market penetration for commercial ovens and significant stakeholder interest in expanding scope to include large electric combination ovens (≤ 40 pans), small electric combination ovens (pan capacity ≥ 3 pans), small gas combination ovens (pan capacity ≥ 5 pans), and electric “mini” 2/3rd size pan combi ovens. Additionally, EPA anticipates changes to the performance levels for commercial convection and combination ovens. For more information, please contact CFS@energystar.gov.

Electric Cooktops Discussion Guide
EPA is in the process of scoping electric cooktop technology as a potential new CFS ENERGY STAR product category. Over the last several months, EPA has been compiling and analyzing market information and energy performance data to determine if there is an opportunity to expand the ENERGY STAR program to include commercial electric cooktop technology. EPA is developing a discussion guide to explore this technology with stakeholders further. For more information, please contact CFS@energystar.gov.

For more information regarding the ENERGY STAR specification process or additional CFS equipment updates, visit www.energystar.gov/productdevelopment.

February 15, 2021

Businesses Asked to Contact Legislators

The National Restaurant Association is asking businesses to urge their legislators to co-sponsor the unified RESTAURANTS Act of 2021.

The bill, which was introduced by Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), builds off the National Restaurants Association’s Blueprint for Recovery plan to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. It would establish a $120 billion revitalization fund to support independent restaurants and small franchises with 20 locations or fewer as they deal with the long-term structural challenges created by the impact of the pandemic. Federal grants under the bill could be used for a variety of business expenses, from retaining workers to inventory and rent.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) are expected to include the text of RESTAURANTS Act in their upcoming COVID-19 relief bill. In the meantime, the National Restaurant Association has said the act needs as many bipartisan cosponsors as possible to demonstrate the immediate urgency of saving the restaurant industry.

The organization has set up a page to help businesses easily and quickly reach out to their senators and represents to ask them to cosponsor the bill. Please click here to add your voice to the effort.

February 15, 2021

Language Indicates Democrats Moving Forward on Minimum Wage, Extended Unemployment Benefits

Summarized from Jade West, National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors

House Democrats have released the first draft language for key pieces of legislation that will form President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief bill.

The language released by the House Education and Labor Committee and Financial Services Committee shows Democrats are forging ahead with plans to increase the Federal minimum wage to $15 an hour despite an ongoing debate over whether Senate rules permit them to do so through the so-called budget reconciliation procedure.

The House Ways and Means Committee is planning for a multi-day process to approve the tax portions of the relief bill, which began Thursday, Feb. 11. That text includes another round of relief checks, paid-leave benefits and widened tax credits for families with children and low-income individuals. It also addresses the extended unemployment benefits that President Biden called for in his overall $1.9 trillion proposal.

Nine other congressional committees will meet in the coming days to assemble their portions of the relief bill for a House floor vote the week of Feb. 22. Once the bill heads to the Senate, it is designed to be passed with just 50 members plus the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris using the budget reconciliation procedure.

February 15, 2021

Democrats Weighing Strategies for a Minimum Wage Hike in COVID-19 Relief

Summarized from Jade West, National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has reported that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would cost 1.4 million jobs and increase the deficit by $54 billion over 10 years.

The minimum wage proposal in Congress has split the more liberal wing of the Democratic Party from moderates such as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-VA) who has said that he does not support the proposal. President Joe Biden said in an interview last week that he did not expect the measure to make the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package currently under consideration by Congress. However, progressives, union leaders, and activists are demanding that the Biden administration use every tool available to make sure its massive coronavirus relief package includes an increase in the minimum wage.

President Biden’s team is leaning heavily against the idea of having Vice President Kamala Harris use her powers as president of the Senate to keep the minimum wage provision inside the relief package. She could do so if the Senate parliamentarian determines that hiking the minimum wage to $15-an-hour does not work with budgetary rules that allow a bill to pass with just 51 votes in the Senate. Harris, at that point, could be the tie-breaking vote to bypass the parliamentarian.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and other progressive lawmakers, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), are optimistic that the parliamentarian will rule that the minimum wage hike is germane to the budget process. And they are also beginning to lay the predicate for the parliamentarian to be overruled if that determination isn’t made.

February 15, 2021

Website Provides Employers with COVID Vaccine Guidance

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has launched a comprehensive new digital resource center designed to help businesses obtain all the information, tools, and templates they need to navigate the vaccine phase of the pandemic response.

The COVID Vaccines Digital Resources Center includes FAQs, state-specific guidance and information, employer vaccine communication and strategy guidance, reliable safety and efficacy information, and other information. Employers who use the resource center can find detailed information on how the vaccines work, best practices for worksite clinics, and mask and travel guidance.

February 8, 2021

Executive Order Could Create Further COVID-19 Guidance Changes or Mandates for Employers

Summarized from Jade West, National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has released updated and stronger guidance for employers and employees on identifying coronavirus exposure risks. The recommendations are “advisory in nature, informational in content, and are intended to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace,” the Department of Labor said.

The updated OSHA guidance is available here.

President Joe Biden’s Jan. 21 executive order has further instructed OSHA to determine whether a new, temporary, or mandatory COVID-related health standard is necessary, and, if so, to implement that standard by March 15.