NCPA Launches “Essential” Campaign to Shed Light on COVID-19 Relief Package Pitfalls

July 15, 2020

The campaign advocates for improvements to the next COVID-19 relief package, including expanded protections and roles for community pharmacists.

The next novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) national relief package should ensure hazard pay for pharmacists, allow pharmacist-administered tests and vaccines, and deem pharmacists “essential” workers, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA).

The organization launched its “Essential” campaign on July 15, which aims to rally pharmacists and other small business owners to pressure Congress to include several key provisions in the next package of COVID-19 relief.

“Essential businesses are taking great precautions, sometimes at considerable expense, to continue serving their communities while also protecting consumers, their employees, and themselves against the virus,” said NCPA chief executive officer B. Douglas Hoey, RPh in a press release. “Their neighbors need them, especially neighborhood pharmacies.”

The NCPA “Essential” campaign said the next COVID-19 package should include:

Hazard pay for frontline workers, including all pharmacy employees. “NCPA supports the passage of federally supported premium pay in addition to regular wages for essential workers, including pharmacy staff,” the organization said.

Liability protections for essential businesses operating in good faith. “Congress must act swiftly to enact temporary and targeted liability relief legislation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Small business pharmacies that have acted in good faith to follow CDC guidelines and that have provided essential services and stayed open during the pandemic need protection from unfair lawsuits so that they can continue to contribute to a safe and effective recovery from this crisis,” NCPA said.

Expansion of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Passed as part of the CARES Act, PPP has been successful in helping small businesses retain their workforce, NCPA said. “Congress should continue to improve upon this program, including allowing businesses that received PPP loans to deduct eligible expenses from their taxes and qualify for the Employee Retention tax credit.”

Recognition of pharmacists as health care providers. While pharmacists have been given limited authority to order and administer COVID-19 tests during the public health emergency, obstacles still prevent pharmacists from practicing at their full capabilities. “Congress should recognize pharmacists as healthcare providers and remove barriers to expand testing by pharmacists, as well as promote immunization authority and ensure pharmacists are reimbursed for the health care services they provide,” NCPA said.

Tax credits to offset costs of safety precautions. “Congress should recognize the increased financial burden on businesses to safely operate, including the necessity to purchase personal protective equipment and increased expenses for cleaning and sanitation. Congress must deliver some relief by providing tax credits for these additional expenses,” NCPA said.

The “Essential” campaign will utilize grassroots advocacy and social media to keep constant pressure on lawmakers and align support from pharmacists and other small business owners.

References:

1. NCPA launches “Essential” campaign for small business relief. News Release. NCPA; July 15, 2020. Accessed July 15, 2020. https://ncpa.org/newsroom/news-releases/2020/07/15/ncpa-launches-essential-campaign-small-business-relief.