Scott and Becky Harris Catoctin Creek

Scott and Becky Harris, owners of Catoctin Creek Distillery in Purcellville.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced New Year’s Eve that distilleries should ignore the notices they received about paying fees for the making of sanitizing alcohol earlier in 2020 when local businesses and hospitals were in short supply.

Under a provision of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Food and Drug Administration, an agency within the HHS, had sent bills to distilleries that had made different types of sanitizer, with some owing as much as half a million dollars.

On Dec. 31., HHS said distilleries would not be required to pay the fees. “I’m pleased to announce we have directed FDA to cease enforcement of these arbitrary, surprise user fees,” {span}Brian Harrison, HHS chief of staff, said Thursday in a statement.

“Small businesses who stepped up to fight COVID-19 should be applauded by their government, not taxed for doing so,” Harrison said.

Purcellville’s Catoctin Creek Distilling received a bill from the FDA this week for $14,000. In March, Catoctin Creek started producing gallons of free sanitizing alcohol for local businesses and hospitals to use when there was a short supply across the state.

Scott and Becky Harris, co-owners of Catoctin Creek Distillery, said hundreds of craft distillers across the country who thought they were doing a “good deed” by making sanitizing products, when there were shortages due to the coronavirus pandemic, were surprised to receive the retroactive bill from the FDA.

Becky Harris, who serves as president of the American Craft Spirits Association, was on the phone with officials from the HHS Dec. 31 to see if there is something that can be done to change their minds.

During the day Dec. 31, HHS officials were telling Catoctin Creek and the other distillers to hold off on paying the fee, Scott Harris told the Times-Mirror.

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The fee was being charged retroactively after they had registered with the FDA as a “monograph prescription producer” in order to make the sanitizer. Prescription drug makers have to pay user fees every year to the government.

The Harrises said they were not aware of the fee when they filled out the online registration to make Catoctin’s sanitizer.

Scott Harris said the FDA was given the ability to charge the fee as part of CARES Act.

It felt like receiving a “surprise medical bill,” he said.

The Harrises decided to pivot their business and make the sanitizer during “a time of need” last spring; they have not made any additional product since May.

“It really seems punitive and not thought through,” he said.

They reached out to elected officials, including U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D) and Tim Kaine (D) of Virginia as well as U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA-10) to seek their assistance.

“We felt like we were heroes at the time helping out in a time of need, which is why this stinks so much,” Scott Harris said.

In his announcement that the HHS had directed the FDA to stop collecting the fee, Harrison stated, “Happy New Year, distilleries, and cheers to you for helping keep us safe!”

(2) comments

jke

When Trump finds out the fees will be waived Kaine, Warner and Wexton couldn't care less.

LetSanityPrevail

They care. They would insist that the fees be increased along with penalties.

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