Along with an extensive letter articulating several important activities — including advocacy for independent operators, its annual convention and 20 groups — National Independent Automobile Dealers Association chief executive officer Steve Jordan made an urgent plea for members to reach out to their Congressional representatives.
In separate messages sent on Sunday, Jordan emphasized the U.S. Senate is currently negotiating the next federal coronavirus relief legislation — S. 3548, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Jordan said NIADA has been engaged in supporting several provisions of the bill that will help the association’s member dealers and other small businesses with necessary cash flow and other aid during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those provisions include:
• $300 billion in small business interruption loans for paid sick or medical leave, employee salaries, mortgage or rent payments, utilities and any other debt obligations.
• An opportunity for small business borrowers to obtain loan forgiveness equal to their payroll cost and costs related to debt obligations from March 1 through June 30, 2020.
• Delaying payment of employer payroll taxes, relaxing limitations on a firm’s use of losses from prior years, and other tax relief to help dealers keep employees on the payroll.
NIADA urges dealers to call the Capitol Hill switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to express their strong support of the small business provisions in the CARES Act and tell their U.S. Senators to vote for the passage of S. 3548.
Senators can also be reached at www.senate.gov/senators/contact to send feedback or a direct email.
Then Jordan sent a letter updating an array of important topics.
1. What is NIADA’s corporate response to COVID-19 and how are we managing continuity of our association operations?
NIADA is currently fully “open for business” but has placed a 30-day temporary ban on all non-essential travel (through April 10) and has given all employees the capacity and option to work from home until further notice.
We have established an ad hoc management team that meets daily to discuss new information on COVID-19 and the appropriate NIADA response in relation to its employees, its members, the driving public and the industry.
We are following closely the guidance issued by the World Health Organization, the CDC and the federal, state and local governments tasked with managing the containment and cure of COVID-19, and will respond accordingly.
NIADA is engaged in frequent, ongoing dialogue with federal government agencies and officials, industry stakeholders and allied industry partners as we all work together to minimize the negative impact of the virus on automotive sales, service and operations.
Additionally, NIADA has a hiring freeze in place on budgeted new hires for 2020 and has implemented cost-containment controls that will eliminate non-essential expenses until further notice.
Our chief financial officer, Melanie Wilson, is assisting me with evaluating various financial models based on the duration of disruption that could limit the negative impact to NIADA’s financial position in the short and long term.
Rest assured we are tightening the belt and managing operations as efficiently as possible with contingency plans in mind.
2. What can NIADA do to support its dealer members as the impact of COVID-19 becomes more widespread and begins to affect operations?
As mentioned, NIADA is in ongoing discussions with federal-level resources, including the White House, the CDC, WHO and others we rely on to provide guidance about how we should collectively respond to this virus outbreak.
Senior vice president Shaun Petersen and our government affairs team are doing a great job of assimilating and sorting the influx of updates and data we are receiving daily.
Our member services team of Scott Lilja, Chase Tidwell, Troy Graff and Jim Gibson is doing an excellent job working with our industry partners to create a central resource guide for you to know who to contact at the companies you do business with to explore relief packages, discounts or other financial considerations with them. The financial impact of this pandemic is of great concern to everyone involved. NIADA has been communicating with federal authorities on relief packages available to small dealers, including the recently passed Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the economic disaster loans available through the Small Business Administration.
Additional relief packages are under consideration and NIADA will work with Congress and the administration to ensure the interests of the independent dealer are fully considered.
Additionally, we have created a website – covid19.niada.com – that contains the latest information from federal health officials, updates on key legislation, regulatory guidance, information from industry partners and other resources to help you manage your business during this pandemic.
NIADA will update the site with the latest information as it becomes available, so I encourage you to check it often.
3. What is NIADA preparing to do with scheduled public meetings and events like the June 2020 Convention in Las Vegas, the fall NABD Conference and dozens of 20 Group meetings?
We are not planning to cancel the 2020 NIADA|NABD Convention & Expo in Las Vegas. However, it is becoming more and more likely we will need to postpone and reschedule the event to a date later in the year. We are working toward that end now.
The current CDC guidance to eliminate all gatherings of more than 50 people until mid-May and the closure of all resorts and hotels on the Las Vegas strip makes it nearly impossible for us to deliver the NIADA Convention & Expo our members and industry partners have come to expect.
As of this date, NIADA has not yet canceled or rebooked its contract with the MGM Grand Las Vegas, but events manager Devin Agonis and I are in daily discussions with MGM management to decide what reasonable solutions are available for rescheduling.
We hope to make an announcement soon, when a definitive solution has been reached, and will advise you on the revised conference details. Thank you for your patience in the meantime.
The NABD BHPH Subprime Conference, featuring Ken Shilson, will be combined into the rescheduled Convention & Expo once a date and venue have been finalized for later this year. More to come on this soon.
Decisions on all 20 Group meetings are being managed on a case-by-case basis by our dealer development team in close collaboration with each group.
If you have any questions about the impact of COVID-19 on your specific 20 Group, please contact Chuck Bonanno or Diann Flanders of our dealer development team.
We are preparing to provide ongoing updates as new information is obtained and as we navigate this together, so please stay tuned.
“As news of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) dominates our media and everyday lives, it leaves us all feeling the pressure of how to respond,” Jordan began in his letter available here.
“How do we respond in our personal lives when schools are closing and governments are issuing 'shelter-in place' orders? How do we respond as small business owners running a business and managing as best we can? How do we respond as an automotive industry that meets an essential transportation need in our communities?
It is important to know that NIADA’s response is being driven by the continued well-being of its employees, its dealer members, the driving public and its allied industry partners,” he continued. “We are all in this together. And we are all better when we work together as a cohesive unit. One of my favorite quotes is, ‘Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond to it.’
“NIADA has chosen to respond to this unprecedented challenge as a unified industry with a positive mindset and a focus on the things we can control,” Jordan went on to say.