The first quarter of 2021 has been extremely active on many policy, economic, and industry fronts. In many ways, the HFA Government Relations Action Team (GRAT) had a front-row ‘virtual’ seat to the discussions on Capitol Hill and across the country as policymakers, and local leaders continued efforts in the COVID-19 Recovery. The bulk of the focus in Washington, DC was on the recently passed American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion package championed by President Biden and congressional Democrat leaders. With the passage of the legislation, we hope that American families are stabilized, state and local governments continue to provide priority services, and the economy continues its recovery. Our industry has benefited from recent legislation’s economic multiplier effects, from PPP funds to economic impact payments being invested in home furnishings while we all adjusted to the work/live/school from home situation.
There were many other important developments while the Rescue Plan was under consideration. Any furniture retailers could secure a second round of PPP funding, made available by the COVID-19 relief bill passed in December 2020. That same legislation extended the authority for the PPP through March 31, 2021. In recent days, HFA supported congressional action, which further extended PPP funds’ availability another two months through May 31, 2021.
The HFA GRAT held several meetings with congressional members and staff to highlight the growing supply chain backlog. This issue has been the subject of extensive reporting from the automobile industry through to home furnishings. We stated the direct connection to the strong demand for home products and our recovery and leadership of the economy during uncertain times. However, without a coordinated federal response and attention to the supply chain disruption, this could become a significant liability that impacts retailers’ costs and, ultimately, consumers.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has also begun implementing a national upholstered furniture flammability standard that was mandated through the December 2020 stimulus bill. CPSC recently released its proposal, and as we review it, we will remain engaged with the Commission through completion and implementation. CPSC is also continuing its work related to a furniture stability/tip-over standard. The Commission is scheduled to deliver a proposed standard later this year, supported by HFA and the political leadership at CPSC. While that is being developed, the STURDY Act, legislation that creates an accelerated process for CPSC to complete the tip-over rulemaking, was re-introduced. In the previous Congress, the STURDY Act passed the House of Representatives, but it was not considered in the Senate.
HFA supports the development of a mandatory furniture tip-over standard through the ongoing CPSC rulemaking process. The STURDY Act provisions would lead to greater uncertainty in this process, so HFA will remain engaged with congressional stakeholders to determine the best path forward on this issue.
Many of these issues will continue to be priorities in the coming months, especially as the Biden Administration and congressional leaders turn their attention to a broader economic recovery agenda to include infrastructure investments and potential tax increases. HFA has identified several areas to work together with stakeholders to advance the economic recovery; however, we are very concerned about the timing of any tax increases as we continue to confront the uncertainties of COVID-19.