Members' Voices Key to Recovery

Tracy Mulqueen
Publisher, FEDA News & Views

When FEDA’s Advocacy Council members travelled to Washington D.C. last September to meet with U.S. senators and representatives, the group unknowingly laid the foundation for future FEDA actions in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Those meetings have demonstrated the importance of advocacy efforts by setting the stage for FEDA and its members to build solid relationships with congressional leaders, business advocacy groups, and other distribution associations to support the evolving needs of foodservice equipment and supplies dealers. For the last several months this has meant focusing on our members’ economic survival through the COVID-19 crisis.

Through the action of our members, we’ve seen the weight legislators give to hearing from the companies in their districts. Since March, FEDA members like Dave Stafford, president and CEO of Stafford-Smith, and Joe Schmitt, president of Rapids Wholesale Equipment, have communicated regularly with their congressional representatives about what businesses need to sustain operations and continue supporting their communities. Due to our members’ business knowledge and intense passion for the industry, they have effectively articulated these messages, ultimately helping pass temporary federal funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the flawed, but crucial, Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

During this process, we were reminded that although government doesn’t fully understand how businesses work, it can be an important, if imperfect, partner to our industry. We witnessed the jolt the Small Business Administration (SBA) experienced when asked to quickly mobilize the PPP program and make loans available through bank lenders. The SBA and other involved entities stumbled in the execution, leaving businesses worried whether they would receive the lifeline loans in time to matter. Despite the difficult stops and starts, the PPP has been a useful tool to help our members stabilize their companies. By making their voices heard through FEDA’s advocacy efforts, our members continue to shape coronavirus relief and will push Congress to make necessary PPP improvements.

While our members have been tenacious about staying ahead of federal legislation to protect their businesses, they have been equally determined to advocate on behalf of their customers – the foodservice operators whose businesses are most threatened by COVID-19. FEDA members and partners have rallied tirelessly for the reopening and recovery needs of operators by advocating for the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Blueprint for Recovery Act and donating to the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund.

While no silver bullet will solve the economic challenges ahead, FEDA will continue to work alongside members to support plans that propel successful business recovery – and we will continue to need and deeply appreciate the full involvement of our incredible members to make this happen.