The National Restaurant Association (NRA) announced it is ramping up grassroots advocacy as part of its ongoing efforts to educate Members of Congress on the challenges restaurant operators face in implementing the health care law.

“We are asking restaurateurs to tell their own  story about how their business operates day to day and the potential impact of the health care law,” says Scott DeFife, executive vice president, policy & government affairs, NRA. “The industry is often the first employer for many young people, those re-entering the workforce or supplementing their family incomes, and we know that we have a role in informing our workforce about their options and trying to expand their coverage and access to health care. At the same time, there are unique characteristics of the restaurant and food service industry that makes implementation more challenging.  Our industry is labor-intensive with low profit margins, with a workforce that is young and mobile, and employs a significant number of part-time and seasonal employees. ”

The Association is encouraging its members to share their personal stories with elected officials over the August recess. The National Restaurant Association has called on Congress to revise the health care law's definition of full-time employment, simplify the calculation for who is considered a large employer, and streamline compliance, including the auto-enrollment mandate.

As a central resource for its grassroots campaign, the Association has developed a new online platform – – to activate advocates, encouraging members to send letters to their members of Congress, read the latest news on key issues and learn about local events.

In addition to grassroots outreach, the National Restaurant Association has used Congressional hearings as opportunities to educate members of Congress on the uncertainty operators face with regards to the health care law.

The transition relief granted for some employer reporting requirements and the employer mandate is a helpful and significant recognition that implementation of the law can be complicated for our industry.  The additional time should be used to help simplify and address the complicated issues that small businesses are still facing regarding implementation of the current health care law, National Restaurant Association board member and small business owner Kevin Settles told a Senate panel today.

Settles, President and CEO of Bardenay Restaurant & Distillery, testified before a Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship hearing entitled “Implementation of the Affordable Care Act: Understanding Small Business Concerns.”  His testimony focused on the growing number of challenges facing small businesses across the country as they attempt to comply with the health care law.
“The definition of ‘full-time employee’ under the law poses the greatest challenge,” says Settles. “The current definition does not reflect workforce practices within the restaurant industry and could have a detrimental impact on a restaurant operator’s ability to offer flexible schedules for his or her employees.” 

Settles also addressed the complexity of determining what is considered a “large employer.” The standing rules under the current Tax Code require employers to determine if they are considered one or multiple employers for the purposes of the health care law. Settles said this intricacy of determination is “stifling smaller employers’ ability to manage their workforces, expand their businesses and prepare to offer health care coverage.”

Finally, Settles focused on the automatic enrollment provision which would require businesses with 200 or more full-time employees to automatically enroll full-time employees in a health care plan. “If those employees do not specifically opt out of coverage this could cause financial hardship and greater confusion about the law for some employees, without increasing their access to coverage,” said Settles.

Settles thanked the committee and concluded his testimony by calling on Congress to better address restaurant and foodservice operators’ needs as they continue to navigate the current health care law.

He reaffirmed the small business community’s commitment to finding solutions that foster job growth and benefit the individuals they serve.