Amid Recession, Congress Forces Thrift Stores to Close

According to statements from the National Association of Retail & Thrift Shops and the National Association of Manufacturers, a law designed to protect kids from lead in toys may soon force thrift stores to close their doors.

It seems the law, passed after the uproar over lead in toys imported from China, places an incredible burden on resellers of toys.  The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) controls for lead in toys down to incredible minute amounts, as low as 600 parts per million, the testing for which is incredibly costly.  According to the National Association of Manufacturers:

Thousands of businesses and organizations, including thrift stores, charities, book publishers, public libraries, home crafters, and apparel makers learned recently that their products (ranging from books, clothes, strollers, toys, dirt bikes and bunk beds) – including existing inventory – are subject to the retroactive lead standard provisions of CPSIA.

All businesses want to comply with the new law. However, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is not done clarifying which products and materials fall under the new rules thanks to the law’s unrealistic compliance deadline.

The LA Times has reported on what Congress is doing to prevent thrift stores across the country from shuttering their doors:

On Thursday, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and five other Republican senators introduced an amendment to the economic stimulus bill that would make changes to the consumer product safety act. It would delay the regulations by six months, clarify rules about component testing, exempt resellers from the act, prevent retroactive enforcement of the act and require the commission to provide small businesses with a compliance guide.

Even charities like Goodwill could be affected.  MSNBC spoke with Doug Hiob, a spokesperson for Goodwill Industries, who said:

Because our children’s clothing averages $1.25 per sale per garment, I think a lot of people in this economy are going to be affected by it.

Another Goodwill spokesperson, Audrey Young, had this to say:

At this point we’re not sure what the commission is going to determine those items to be. We’re not sure the impact that that could have on our sales and our revenue.

This kind of reactionary, poorly-thought-out regulation couldn’t come at a worse time.  When so many families are struggling to make ends meet, closing down thrift stores cuts off one of the ways that families can afford clothing and other necessities.

This is yet another, tragic example of how Congress gives with one hand while it takes away with the other.