May 2021
Prepared and Distributed by The Midwest Hardware Association, Inc.
Wisconsin Legislation To Exempt Taxes From Credit Card Fees
By Misha Lee, MHA Wisconsin Lobbyist
A long overdue debate over credit card swipe fees and taxes has quickly garnered the attention of retailers in Wisconsin. The Midwest Hardware Association (MHA) has joined with several other statewide Main Street merchant groups in support of legislation that would exempt credit card swipe fees on the collection of state and local taxes. Senator Dan Feyen (R-Fond du Lac) and Representative Tyler Vorpagel (R-Plymouth) will be introducing legislation in the coming weeks to try and address some of the inequities that are forced upon the retail sector when it comes to card fees.
Increased online shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic has made swipe fees a much bigger cost burden on retailers. Credit card swipe fees, often referred to as interchange fees, continue to grow unchecked and are now the second largest expense for most retailers, behind only labor costs. Swipe fees in the U.S. are among some of the highest in the world; seven times higher than the average European rate and four times higher than Australia. These swipe fees are invisible to consumers, but glaring to merchants who often end up paying fees of 2 percent or more of their customer’s credit card purchases.

The Merchant Service Charge (MSC), known in the U.S. as the Merchant Discount Rate, is a term given to fees levied on a merchant when accepting a card transaction. The MSC consists of the Interchange fee, Network fee and Processor Margin that are all unavoidable for any merchant accepting payment cards (credit, debit, or prepaid). The interchange fee and network fee are both passed on to the merchant which when added to the processor margin gives the total Merchant Service Charge. The average MSC for retailers in Wisconsin is estimated at 2.29% and interchange fees account for 1.54%, costing Wisconsin merchants approximately $1.2 billion, according to CMSPI, a global retail payments consulting firm that tracks merchant data.

Credit card companies are making more money on every card transaction because the swipe fee is also applied to the tax the retailer is required to collect and remit. Wisconsin merchants collect and remit taxes to the state not because they want or choose to, but because by law as a retail business they are required to. For retailers, it costs money to be the state’s tax collectors and the credit card companies are directly profiting on those collections causing retailers to lose more money because the swipe fee in Wisconsin is included in the collection of state and local taxes.

The legislation being proposed by Sen. Feyen and Rep. Vorpagel would prohibit a swipe fee from being imposed against a merchant on the tax portion of a transaction when a purchase is made from the merchant using a credit card. The bill would also prohibit a swipe fee from being imposed on the portion of any transaction that is a fee imposed by a city, village, town or county. The legislation is a small step in providing some relief to Wisconsin Main Street retailers when they are already overburdened with rising card fees.

The Legislature is expected to hold hearings on the bill sometime following passage of the state budget which will happen either later this summer or in the fall.
Illinois End of Session is Fast Approaching
By Alec Laird, MHA Illinois Lobbyist and Vice President, Government Relations for the Illinois Retail Merchants Association

The Illinois General Assembly has a ton to accomplish with very little time to accomplish it in. This week saw little substantive action on the major outstanding issues. Both chambers have adjourned for the weekend. When they return Monday, we expect they will be in session through May 31st - the scheduled adjournment deadline. It will be a very active final stretch. While other subjects will get done, there are two that must be done. Those two are a state budget and redistricting.

The first must-do is the state’s FY 2022 budget. Last week, the state significantly increased their revenue estimate predicting the state would realize $2 billion in additional revenues. They also increased their FY 2022 revenue estimate by $800 million. Moreover, Illinois received $8.1 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act. However, there are restrictions as to how this money can be utilized.

Last year, Illinois borrowed $3.2 billion from a federal program to assist states during a pandemic. Illinois was the only state to do so. This week, the state announced they were paying off the remaining $2 billion, of the $3.2 billion originally borrowed having already paid back $1.2 billion.

Budget negotiators continue to grapple with an alleged $1.3 billion deficit for FY 22 based off the Governor’s introduced budget. The Governor has attempted to use this alleged deficit to argue for taking away over $900 million in tax credits that benefit employers. He has also continued to advocate for limiting the Retail Discount despite the fact it is a reimbursement for services rendered by retailer to the state and the fact the Illinois Department of Revenue collects higher fees on 24 of the 26 taxes the collect on behalf of local governments. Of the credits the Governor is proposing eliminating, it appears those tied to federal law (net operating loss, foreign source dividend income, and advanced depreciation are still under consideration.

The second must-do is redistricting. Every ten years, pursuant to the Illinois Constitution, the boundaries of legislative districts, House and Senate, must be redrawn to re-balance them for population shifts that have occurred over the decade. Likewise, the boundaries of congressional districts will be re-drawn not only to balance for population but to recognize the fact Illinois must merge the current 19 congressional districts into 18 due to population loss. The new maps are expected to be unveiled at literally any moment although congressional districts may come later. You can expect a vote on the maps before May 31st.

Energy reform has dominated a significant portion of the last year-and-a-half with reliability, cost, and the significant benefits Illinois’ deregulated energy market have brought residential, commercial, and industrial customers at the core of the discussion. A push to have Illinois attain a clean energy generation base by 2050 has driven a great part of the discussion. However, that cannot be done without nuclear power. Exelon is pushing for additional subsidies to keep at least some of their nuclear plant operating. Solar operators are pushing to resolve an interruption in solar subsidies. Other issues have included but not been limited to energy efficiency, low-income subsidies, re-regulation of the market, re-regulation of energy distribution (utilities), electrification including electric vehicle incentives and charging infrastructure, a carbon tax, etc.

Private meetings have been on-going for several weeks. It appears the legislators will resume their legislator-only working group meetings this week. The likely outcome is a ‘slimmed down’ energy bill. Exactly what that will mean remains to be seen but will likely include:  some sort of nuclear subsidy, addressing the solar funding issue, moving away from formula rates for utilities but not completely re-regulating them. MHA has communicated repeatedly that ensuring Illinois’ reliability gains are not lost and our significant economic advantage as a result of deregulation is not sacrificed.
Minnesota universal business guidance for ALL businesses and retailers starting Friday -- remember to update your plans per State guidelines
Beginning this Friday most Minnesota COVID business restrictions end, however all businesses including retailers are reminded that previous requirements are replaced by a new "Universal Guidance For All Businesses And Entities" document.

The five page plan should be reviewed now with the appropriate updates to COVID preparedness plans put in place on this Friday, May 28.
The Universal Guidance For All Businesses And Entities can be found here:

From the document:
“This guidance applies to all business and places of public accommodation (“businesses”)-defined by Executive Order 21-11, as amended by Executive Order 21-21 and EO-23 (“EO”) from Friday, May 28, 2021 through the earlier of June 30, 2021 or until 70% of Minnesotans aged 16+ receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The EO requires all businesses to have and implement a written COVID-19 Preparedness Plan that addresses EO requirements and applicable Stay Safe Industry Guidance. “Businesses” are broadly defined to include any entity that employs or engages workers, including owners, employees, contractors, vendors, volunteers, or interns.

  • The representative responsible for implementing the Plan must sign and certify the Plan, affirming their commitment to implement the Plan. Businesses must assign a designated Plan administrator to ensure the Plan is evaluated, monitored, executed, and updated as needed.

  • Each business must provide its Plan, in writing, to all workers, and the Plan must be posted at all of the business’s workplaces in locations that will allow for the Plan to be readily reviewed by all workers. If physical posting is impracticable, the Plan must be posted electronically. Plans must also be available to regulatory authorities and public safety officers, upon request.

  • Each business must ensure that training is provided to workers on the contents of its Plan and required procedures, so that all workers understand and are able to perform the precautions necessary to protect themselves, their co-workers, their customers, and their visitors.

  • When more than one business has authority, responsibility, or control over workers, locations, or activities, each business must coordinate their implementation of these requirements.”
Wisconsin Governor Evers Announces Application Dates for $420 Million Small Business Recovery Grants
Participating businesses to receive $5,000; grant program to help up to 84,000 Wisconsin small businesses

MADISON - Applications for up to $420 million in new Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Recovery Grants for small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic will open at 8 a.m. Monday, May 24 through 4:30 p.m. Monday, June 7, Governor Tony Evers announced today.

The Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Recovery Grants program is a collaboration between the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and the Department of Revenue (DOR). The effort, funded by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA).

The grants will provide as many as 84,000 Wisconsin small businesses with annual gross revenue between $10,000 and $7 million with a flat award of $5,000.

“We want small businesses to know that help is on the way, and we’re glad to be able to announce these application dates so we can get these funds to our small businesses as quickly as possible,” said Gov. Evers. “Our businesses will be able to use these funds to restock shelves, catch up on bills, rehire and retain workers, and help continue keeping folks safe so we can bounce back together.”

The governor’s announcement today regarding Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Recovery Grants reflects the strategy of the new Wisconsin Tomorrow:  Building an Economy for All report recently released by the WEDC, which calls for investments that advance economic well-being for individuals and communities. Last year, WEDC provided more than $240 million in grants to help more than 60,000 small businesses cope with losses related to the pandemic.

“These new grants are intended to support those small businesses who were hardest hit by the pandemic and who are now poised to make a strong recovery with just a little extra help,” said WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes said.

The grants are part of Gov. Evers’ plan to use the $2.5 billion the state will receive under the ARPA, which includes $600 million in funds designated to supporting small businesses. The Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Recovery grants are included in that $600 million.

“Both of my parents were entrepreneurs and small business owners, and I followed in those footsteps, so I have personal experience with the many challenges small businesses face. I am so pleased that we are able to provide some relief that will help small businesses recover and, eventually, bounce back further than where they were before the pandemic hit,” said DOR Secretary Peter Barca.

The new grants will target Wisconsin small businesses, including those that started in 2020, in sectors that have been hit hardest by the pandemic. Individuals and businesses interested in learning more about the Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Recovery Grant program by visiting the main page of the Department of Revenue,

Contact: [email protected]
Sales Trends March 2021
Here are the most recent Illinois, Minnesota-Dakotas, and Wisconsin hardware store sales trends, gathered from association members using the MHA's monthly accounting services. The figures derived for each region include sales data from the following number of stores:

Illinois - 23 stores
Minn.-Dakotas - 13 stores
Wisconsin - 70 stores
Illinois: Chicago minimum wage increase set for July 1, 2021
Minnesota: Minneapolis and St. Paul minimum wage set to increase July 1, 2021
St. Paul:
Conducting Performance Evaluations During the Pandemic
During annual performance evaluations, managers typically consider what an employee has accomplished since their last yearly review, especially in terms of meeting goals and making improvements in targeted areas. This year is very different, though. Chances are that what has unfolded since the first quarter of 2020 is drastically different than what anyone could have anticipated during the previous evaluation cycle or when performance objectives were set for the current year.

Flexibility in Evolving Circumstances
When preparing 2020/2021 performance evaluations, flexibility is key. Holding employees to the same goals that were put in place during last year’s performance evaluations is likely not realistic in light of recent circumstances impacting businesses and their employees.

Many businesses have had to take significant steps to adapt to COVID-19, such as:

You Have a New Hire... Now What?!
Once the individual is hired, the next phase is the new hire paperwork completion. New hire paperwork includes mandatory federal and state forms as well as documents specific to the store. The new employee must also complete certain paperwork so that they can enroll in the benefits, if applicable, and be added to payroll. It is wise for you to have a checklist to ensure that they have every essential document prior to or on the employee's first day of work. While there may be some differences in the specific paperwork for each store, in general, new hire paperwork includes the following:

  • Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 (Form I-9) must be completed within 3 business days of date of hire
  • Federal and state payroll tax forms
  • Benefit enrollment forms, if applicable
  • Payroll direct deposit authorization form
  • Employee personal data form
  • W-4 and if applicable State W-4
  • Statement acknowledging receipt of employee handbook, including an acknowledgment of the employees obligation to understand its contents
  • Conflict of Interest policy
  • Sexual Harassment Policy
  • Confidentiality and Nondisclosure Policy
  • Ethics Policy.

At Will Employment, What does that mean?

In all states, except Montana, employment relationships are presumed to be at-will. At-will means that an employer can terminate an employee at any time for any reason (with certain exceptions), or even without a reason, providing it does not violate state and federal anti-discrimination or other employment laws. Likewise, it means an employee is free to leave a job at any time for any reason, or without a reason. At-will employment does not protect you from litigation. Why? Because employees can sue for alleged state and/or federal violations or anything they want. The burden of proof will be on you, so we recommend that you have documentation of the termination. If there are discussions, errors, customer service concerns, documentation is your best friend.

Most Common Exceptions to Employment At-Will

Even if an employer and employee do not enter into a formal employment agreement, there are various exceptions to the at-will presumption, including:

  • Contracts that contain a specific term of employment with termination-for-cause provisions;
  • Collective bargaining agreements;
  • Implied contracts;
  • Public policy;
  • The implied covenant of good faith;
  • Statutory exceptions;
  • Promissory estoppel;
  • Antidiscrimination laws; and
  • Anti-retaliation laws.
Service Spotlight

Forklift Workshop DVD Training
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 requires employers to have formal and practical training and evaluation for all forklift operators. Once initial training is conducted, employers must then evaluate each operator at least once every three years. The Forklift Workshop DVD Training can help you meet OSHA forklift training requirements.
The Forklift Workshop DVD is an innovative approach on education new and veteran operators on proper forklift safety procedures as required by OSHA. The workshop contains everything necessary, such as a 35 minute DVD, trainer’s tools on CD- ROM, operator’s handbook, quizzes, forklift poster, and more!
Contact Jordan Firkus at 800-888-1817 ext. 301, [email protected] or Andrea Ramage at 800-888-1817 ext. 365, [email protected].


“The Forklift Workshop DVD is a handy tool. It includes basic information to help train new forklift operators and provides a heads up on possible safety issues. The video and material provided make training quick and easy.”

Mike, Manager
United True Value
Oconto Falls, WI

“We purchased the forklift training DVD system after a surprise OSHA visit as a necessity. Among the things we were fined and cited for was failure to have a formal and well-documented forklift training program. We purchased the forklift DVD training program from the Midwest Hardware Association to become compliant and avoid additional penalties.”

Matt Johnson
Johnson's Hardware & Rental
Mora, MN