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Behind The Counter

Lawmakers Push Rewarding American Workers Act

From left, state Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, and U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, are pictured behind the counter at the Gerry Country Fair with store employees making subs for customers. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

Two Western New York politicians went behind the counter Tuesday to try a different line of work.

U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, and George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, each donned Country Fair hats to make subs for customers at the County Fair located along Route 60 in Gerry.

After interacting with the convenience store customers, employees and management, the two elected officials discussed the Rewarding American Workers Act, which if approved will distribute much-needed financial relief to millions of American workers who have staffed essential businesses during the course of the pandemic.

The bipartisan bill would retroactively give low- and middle-income workers on the frontlines of the response to COVID-19 an important source of additional economic support, while also addressing concerns regarding unemployment insurance.

Reed said the proposal could be the next stimulus bill passed by Congress to help Americans during the pandemic. He said there is bipartisan support for the bill in the House of Representatives. He added that members of the House are speaking to their colleagues in the Senate to rally support for the bill.

Reed said everyone, like the employees at the Country Fair in Gerry, who showed up to work during the pandemic would be entitled to the bonus.

“These are our frontline workers,” he said.

Borrello echoed Reed’s sentiments by saying the services provided by the Gerry Country Fair to members of the community and those who are traveling, like truck drivers, are important because there aren’t many stores in the area that provide needed services like gasoline and food.

“We need to recognize (the work County Fair employees are doing) and we need to incentivize that. It’s important,” he said.

The legislation works by providing businesses with an advanceable and refundable tax credit that they can then use to provide their workers with a one-time, immediate payment. The size of the bonus is structured to fall as income rises, with payments limited to those earning below $99,000. The bill uses existing IRS and treasury authorities to ensure workers get financial relief as quickly as possible.

An examples of the bonus would be a fast-food worker or store cashier earning a wage of $25,000 would receive a bonus of approximately $2,880, which is around 30% of their wages earned during the pandemic. Another example would be a licensed practical nurse or hospice caregiver earning a wage of $45,000, the bill would provide them with a bonus of approximately $2,500, or around 15% of wages earned during the crisis.

Joining Reed and Borrello included David Brink, County Fair director of operations; Paul Rankin, Country Fair vice president of retail marketing; and Steve Seymour, Country Fair director of personnel.

Rankin said Country Fair has 1,230 employees in 72 locations. Rankin also discussed how Country Fair is giving back to the community. From now until Nov. 30 at the Gerry Country Fair, a 2-cent donation of every gallon of gasoline purchased from the designated fuel pump will be made to the Feed More WNY food bank.

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