Retail industry trade leadership likes what it sees from Washington so far. As the new stimulus package starts its journey from initial proposal to tense negotiations, both the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) have expressed support for several aspect of what is now being called the HEALS Act (Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools Act).
In its current form the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is an increasing area of focus. The latest plan put forward by Senate Republicans calls for a fresh round of funding for PPP loans, although this time with narrowed eligibility criteria. It also includes liability protections for businesses and a second round of stimulus checks at the same $1,200 amount as in the previous CARES Act. But under the GOP proposal, households would receive $500 per dependent, while Democrats are pressing for $1,200 per dependent for up to three dependents.
“While understanding that the HEALS Act introduced by Majority Leader McConnell has a long way to go before Congress agrees to a final compromise, we are very pleased to see the targeted and temporary liability protection for businesses and schools as well as a package of economic stimulus provisions through direct aid to individuals and a hybrid extension of enhanced federal unemployment insurance,” said NRF Senior Vice President for Government Relations David French. “These important steps will continue progress toward sustaining the reopening of the economy. Also, allowing eligible businesses to take a second Paycheck Protection Program loan addresses the uncertain length of the crisis and the package includes critical tax provisions that will help offset the enormous costs of personal protective equipment and allow more businesses to utilize the enhanced employee retention credit.”
A consortium of trade groups expressed support for the liability provisions in the bill, including the RILA.
“Since the first appearance of COVID-19, retailers and their employees have been working diligently to ensure customers have the goods and services they need during this pandemic,” said RILA Senior VP of public affairs Michael Hanson in an official statement. “Retailers have followed safety guidelines and mandates issued by the CDC, state, and local governments and are implementing innovative ways to improve the shopping experience to further protect employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate.”
Hanson went on to say that federal law should protect retailers and their employees who follow safety guidelines and mandates issued by the government. Retailers, he said, should dedicate resources toward rebuilding operations and rehiring employees, not on legal fees.
Both groups have expressed support for a federal mask mandate as well in the interest of safety and protecting retail employees. In a recent podcast from the NRF, SKDKnickerbocker Consultant and Media Strategist Bill Knapp said customers should see staff practicing proper social distancing, disinfecting surfaces and wearing masks.
“You want businesses to stay open, you don’t want to slide back. And I think this is particularly powerful now,” Knapp says. “Stores are beginning to open up. People are getting haircuts. It’s a big relief to people. They don’t want to slide back. And that desire to keep it going is, I think, a powerful sense people have.”