BOWIE, Md. — Roy Littlefield, CEO of the Tire Industry Association, has drafted a letter to TIA's membership covering issues relevant to tire dealerships and auto repair shops in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tire Business is publishing the letter in its entirety, as follows:
March 23, 2020
Dear TIA members,
In this time of uncertainty because of the COVID-19 pandemic, federal and state governments are announcing new rules and regulations for the public and businesses as they try to lead the country through this health and economic crisis. Several recent announcements directly impact small businesses, which make up the bulk of the Tire Industry Association's membership. I'd like to share two of them with you.
On Thursday, March 19, Christopher C. Krebs, director of the cybersecurity and infrastructure security agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, issued a memorandum outlining an initial list of "Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers" covering 13 sectors. Under the Transportation and Logistics heading were automotive repair and maintenance facilities and employees supporting or enabling transportation functions.
A day earlier, on March 18, President Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020, which mandates, among other provisions, that employers of small businesses with fewer than 500 employees provide paid leave to workers affected by the coronavirus paid through the Family and Medical Leave Act. It also provides tax credits to businesses in such cases to help cover the costs.
The bill includes a provision giving the Department of Labor the authority to exempt employers with fewer than 50 employees from the law, should it choose to do so.
Taken together, these two developments provide some clarity to independent tire dealers and distributors as they navigate this epidemic.
Based on the initial list of Critical Infrastructure Workers, many tire dealerships and tire distributors may be allowed to remain open, as they are auto repair and maintenance facilities. That's not the case for a lot of small businesses such as restaurants, gyms and hair salons, depending on the state. The obvious objective of closing these businesses and sheltering in place is to slow the virus' spread. Any tire dealership(s) uncertain about whether to stay open or close should look to the federal and their individual state government(s) for guidance.
During this difficult time, it's critical to keep delivery trucks, public safety vehicles, personal and mass transit vehicles, etc. in proper running order. That's where tire dealers and other repair shops come into play. They are on the front lines helping to keep America's vehicles rolling. I am proud of the role tire dealers play in this area.
But staying open has its own issues, such as how to keep employees and customers safe from the coronavirus. There is a lot of information online about ways to limit the spread of Covid-19.
I suggest following CDC recommendations and protocols here and here. This includes cleaning and sanitizing all surfaces multiple times a day; insisting employees wash their hands with soap and water multiple times a day; requiring employees to stay home if feeling sick; and having plenty of hand sanitizers around the dealership for employees and customers to use.
I like what TIA member Conrad's Tire Express & Total Car Care in Cleveland posted on its website, about the precautions it's taking at its stores. Conrad's management developed a thorough set of guidelines for its employees and dealership to follow using guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and local health departments as well as consulting professionals.
The guidelines are thorough and clearly place the safety of the company's employees and their families, customers, vendors and the community first. You might want to adapt such measures at your business, if you haven't already done so.
Tire dealers and other TIA members also are likely to have employees impacted by the virus who will need to take time off. The newly enacted Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 includes an expanded Federal Family and Medical Leave Act that mandates affected employees be paid for this time away.
It is important for TIA members to understand their responsibilities and the tax implications this could have on their businesses. One of TIA's benefit partners, SESCO Management Consultants, has posted a page on its website with details about the new legislation. You can access it here. I encourage you to read it and to contact SESCO if you need assistance. Also, be sure to talk with your tax advisor and accountant to get their advice, as well.
These are uncertain times, but our country and TIA's members have overcome many difficult challenges in the past, and I have no doubt we will persevere through this one. I encourage you to stay strong, operate your businesses smartly, and do everything you can to keep your customers, employees and families safe.
TIA, through its government affairs department, is monitoring the quickly changing government and regulatory issues and reporting on them through our weekly Legislative Update. If you would like to receive a copy, please send me or Roy Littlefield IV, [email protected], director of government affairs, your email address, and we will add you to the list.
Your national association stands with you.