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NCPA introduces 'Essential' campaign for small business relief

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The next COVID-19 package should shield essential small businesses from opportunistic lawsuits, extend the Paycheck Protection Program, provide or ensure hazard pay and let pharmacists administer tests and vaccines, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association, which launched its “Essential” campaign Wednesday via social media.

Doug Hoey

“Essential businesses are taking great precautions, sometimes at considerable expense, to continue serving their communities while also protecting consumers, their employees, and themselves against the virus,” says Doug Hoey, CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association. “Their neighbors need them, especially neighborhood pharmacies.”

The NCPA “Essential” campaign is aimed at rallying pharmacists and other small business owners to pressure Congress to include several key provisions in the next package of COVID-19 relief, including:

  • Liability protections for essential businesses operating in good faith: Congress must act swiftly to enact temporary and targeted liability relief legislation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Small business pharmacies that have acted in good faith to follow CDC guidelines and that have provided essential services and stayed open during the pandemic need protection from unfair lawsuits so that they can continue to contribute to a safe and effective recovery from this crisis. A recent NCPA survey showed near unanimous support among community pharmacists for such protections.
  • Expansion of the Paycheck Protection Program: The Paycheck Protection Program, which was first passed in the CARES Act and improved in the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act, has been successful in helping small businesses retain their workforce. Congress should continue to improve upon this program, including allowing businesses that received PPP loans to deduct eligible expenses from their taxes and qualify for the Employee Retention tax credit.
  • Recognition of pharmacists as health care providers: While pharmacists have been given limited authority to order and administer coronavirus tests during the public health emergency, obstacles still prevent pharmacists from practicing at their full capabilities. Congress should recognize pharmacists as health care providers and remove barriers to expand testing by pharmacists, as well as promote immunization authority and ensure pharmacists are reimbursed for the health care services they provide.
  • Hazard pay for front line workers: Congress must provide hazard pay to front line employees, including pharmacy employees. NCPA supports the passage of federally supported premium pay in addition to regular wages for essential workers, including pharmacy staff.
  • Tax credits to offset costs of safety precautions: Congress should recognize the increased financial burden on businesses to safely operate, including the necessity to purchase personal protective equipment and increased expenses for cleaning and sanitation. Congress must deliver some relief by providing tax credits for these additional expenses..

“Some of the most vulnerable patients and communities rely on independent pharmacies for care. These are family-owned small businesses, but many are on the brink,” says Hoey. “Congress and the administration must fix pharmacy direct and indirect remuneration fees, a top priority in ensuring neighborhood pharmacies’ long-term survival. And as the pandemic continues, policymakers should also include safeguards in future coronavirus relief legislation so essential businesses can have the resources to cover their expenses, workers can remain employed, and the essential neighborhood pharmacy safety net can serve communities during the pandemic and beyond.”

NCPA’s “Essential” campaign will utilize grassroots advocacy to keep the pressure on policymakers for essential relief, and will also utilize social media.