Shoe industry leaders are cheering the passage of another stimulus bill that could provide financial relief to millions of Americans impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. But they are calling for more legislation to support families and businesses — and fast.
Top executives at the American Apparel and Footwear Association and Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America expressed optimism in the passage of the $900 billion package, which now heads to President Donald Trump’s desk for approval. The agreement, which got the green light from Congress last night, includes another round of direct payments to individuals as well as additional weekly unemployment benefits, as well as loans for small businesses, assistance for renters and funding for coronavirus vaccine distribution, plus other provisions.
In a statement, AAFA president and CEO Steve Lamar welcomed the extension of the Paycheck Protection Program, which would infuse small businesses with $248 billion in loans, as well as the renewal of additional unemployment benefits. However, the weekly bonus for the jobless is only $300 — half of the $600 provided under the CARES Act enacted in late March.
“While this new bill provides essential aid, it is only a down payment on what the American economy needs to make it to the other side,” Lamar said. “The job is not done, and more work will be needed in 2021. This will be job one for the incoming administration and the new Congress, and we look forward to working with them and our diverse coalition to save the American economy.”
FDRA president and CEO Matt Priest shared the same sentiment. While he commended Congress for passing aid following months of an impasse, he called out the imminent lapse of the miscellaneous tariff bill (MTB), which temporarily suspends or reduces import taxes on products with zero or little domestic availability.
“We can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and so we applaud White House and congressional negotiators for finding a path forward for this important relief,” Priest explained. “That being said, Congress did allow the miscellaneous tariff bill to expire… We call on Congress to pass all footwear MTBs under consideration as soon as possible and work towards creating more jobs and savings for the American footwear industry.”
The expiration of such relief comes at a critical time for the industry: As the COVID-19 health crisis drives price-conscious consumers to seek deep discounts, tariffs continue to push supply chains costs higher for brands. Dozens of executives have expressed that they have tighter margins than ever before, and experts forecast that the surge in import costs could lead to fewer companies selling footwear and less innovation in the marketplace.