While I dislike using clichés, especially political ones, DC is as partisan as ever and the upcoming election will only continue that. As the COVID-19 pandemic seeped into the economy and our lives, Congress did find some solutions to help small businesses and Americans weather the storm. From the beginning, NLBMDA was a key player in the passage and implementation of specific relief programs. The lumber and building material industry showed a tremendous capacity to get results in Washington.
Over the past decade, NLBMDA has worked to craft a robust lobbying strategy that utilizes direct lobbying with key lawmakers on Capitol Hill along with a well-functioning grassroots advocacy program. These tools work side-by-side to ensure that LBM dealers across the U.S. have a voice in Washington and that policies work for businesses and Americans alike.
Throughout that time period, NLBMDA members have enthusiastically engaged in the grassroots component and this industry has several victories to show for it. From flying into Washington for the annual Legislative Conference to sending letters of support or opposition to elected officials, this industry is engaged and it shows. Here are just a few recent issues that highlight this point:
QIP Fix: For years, NLBMDA members have lobbied their elected officials to correct this small but consequential error in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. A clerical error had prevented investments in qualified improvement property (QIP) from qualifying for bonus depreciation, which increased the after-tax cost of making QIP investments. NLBMDA members lobbied Congress for this fix, which was an uphill battle, considering clerical errors are low on the list of priorities for Congress. This year, NLBMDA was successful in getting Congress to fix the law.
Small Business Loans: As COVID-19 began to affect the economy, NLBMDA members quickly determined that effective and robust federal assistance would be needed so that dealers could keep their doors open and employees paid. When Congress was considering the CARES Act, NLBMDA members lobbied for expansion of the SBA 7(a) loan program to the tune of $350 billion. When passed, Congress created the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and allocated $349 billion. Congress also allocated money for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL).
Repeal of Health Insurance Tax (HIT): As the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been implemented over the years, NLBMDA has identified a problem regarding Section 9010, which contains a tax on plans. The tax, dubbed a fee, assessed a tax on all health insurance companies of insured plans both inside and outside the exchange based on their “net premiums” written. While charged to insurers to help pay for the ACA, it was ultimately passed down in the form of increased premiums for small businesses, middle-income families, Medicare beneficiaries and young workers, with more than half of the tax paid for by those earning between $10,000 and $50,000.
Last December, after lobbying from NLBMDA members, Congress passed a fiscal year 2020 spending bill and included a repeal of the HIT effective Jan. 1, 2021.
As of July, NLBMDA was working on several issues that are consequential for the industry. As Congress worked to pass a Phase 4 COVID relief bill, NLBMDA lobbied in favor of more business relief, liability protections, the low-income housing tax credit, and others. NLBMDA currently has several important grassroots engagements posted on the website and members are always encouraged to weigh in and make their voice heard.
The continuation of the strong direct lobbying capabilities and the grassroots work of our members are what make this industry a strong force in Washington. We salute all of our members who have stepped up and championed the grassroots efforts. Well done.
Kevin McKenney is director of government affairs for NLBMDA in Washington, D.C. For more information, visit dealer.org.