AAFA, FDRA, CFDA + Other Groups Ask Government To ‘Unleash All Tools’ to Aid 4M Industry Workers Hurt by Coronavirus

As the coronavirus impact batters the retail industry and store closures continue to mount, FDRA, AAFA, CFDA — as well as the Travel Goods Association and U.S. Fashion Industry Association — are calling on the U.S. government to accelerate aid efforts for millions of footwear, apparel and travel workers and retailers.

In a letter sent to Treasury Steven Mnuchin today, leaders from all five groups called on the administration to push forward measures that include immediate tariff relief and access to capital and other monetary resources to assist in challenges with liquidity.

Many apparel, footwear, and travel goods stores are now significantly limiting operations to follow the administration’s recommendations to slow the spread of the coronavirus. While we recognize this is critical to the efforts to combat this deadly virus, and we are proud to play our part, we are concerned that prolonged store closures could have a devastating and lasting impact on our employees and our industry, including our small and family-owned businesses,” the letter stated.

The letter cited immediate loss of revenue associated with store closures. At the same time, companies are still facing payroll, rent and other supply chain costs. “[The situation] will have reverberations throughout our supply chains, hitting our 4 million American workers, including workers in design, marketing, logistics, retail, compliance, manufacturing and so much more. Without relief, companies will be forced to make longer-term decisions that will make recovery more difficult for American businesses and American workers,” executives wrote.

Matt Priest, president and CEO of Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America reiterated his plea for tariffs to be rolled back immediately. “If the administration is unwilling to provide this relief for our consumers, we call on them to delay duty payments by 90 days. When stores close down and sales instantly evaporate, the U.S. Government must act with the utmost urgency. Now is the time to act,” Priest said.

According to the American Apparel & Footwear Association, the U.S. footwear industry alone employs about 1 million Americans, 92% of those in the retail space. In fact, approximately one in four Americans are employed in the retail sector, according to AAFA stats.

“With social distancing measures becoming essential throughout the country, many retailers have temporarily closed or decreased hours to help “flatten the curve” of COVID-19,” said AAFA president and CEO Steve Lamar. “But we need to take action to also “flatten the dip” of the economic drop that Secretary Mnuchin and many others are forecasting. These numbers are scary and real, if Congress and the Administration don’t act quickly and in a coordinated manner.”

The stepped-up efforts come a week after the industry called on officials to freeze duties to help mitigate the coronavirus impact.

Last week, in a letter addressed to Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, FDRA’s Priest wrote that now is “the right time” to implement a freeze on duties to reduce higher costs for American families. “In 2020, we estimate shoe duties will increase costs at the cash register by nearly $12 billion, just on shoes alone. This is a huge cost on a product that every child and family needs,” he wrote, reminding Kudlow that the White House has the power to enact duty freezes on its own and does not need congressional approval.

Separately, the U.S. Senate this afternoon approved a new round of emergency funding following approval by the House last Saturday. The package includes financial support for unemployment insurance and food stamps as well as sick leave for some workers. The legislation now has to be signed by President Trump, who is expected to move quickly to enact the measure.

Congress will now work on more dramatic stimulus measures, including direct payments to American households.

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