Retail industry calls for targeted relief amid coronavirus pandemic

Retail industry calls for targeted relief amid coronavirus pandemic
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The retail industry, represented by the National Retail Federation (NRF), is calling for further financial assistance for companies and businesses hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic. 

The NRF wrote a letter to congressional leadership on Monday asking for an increase in funding to loan and financial assistance programs to help retailers retain employees, including expediting the Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness for all loans up to $150,000.

“The hardest hit retailers are still facing urgent liquidity issues and desperately need access to capital to continue serving their customers. Simply adding more money to small business aid will leave these larger employers without help, so we encourage you to use tools like the tax code and tariff relief to inject liquidity more broadly,” wrote David French, NRF senior vice president of government relations.

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The group called for liability protections, which Republicans have indicated will be included in the next coronavirus relief package, and tax relief for retailers that have lost sales but have increased costs due to the pandemic.

Also, the NRF asks that retailers that utilize loan and assistance programs be allowed to cover rent and utilities with the funds, and that Congress support return to work policies like job training programs and incentives.

The group said the $600 weekly unemployment benefit “has created distortions in the labor market that could ultimately lead to reduced employment and hold back our nation’s economic recovery.”

The administration and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP blocks Senate Democrats' revised elections bill A politicized Supreme Court? That was the point The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Democrats optimistic after Biden meetings MORE (R-Ky.) will start briefing Republicans on the GOP proposal for the fifth round of coronavirus aid on Tuesday.

The NRF applauded legislation introduced last week that would provide a refundable tax credit against payroll taxes for 50 percent of the costs incurred by a business for COVID-19 testing, personal protective equipment, disinfecting, extra cleaning and reconfiguring work spaces to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Also last week, the NRF encouraged all retailers to adopt a nationwide policy that requires customers to wear face coverings. Walmart, Target, CVS Health, Best Buy, Kroger and other major retailers so far have adopted new policies.