That’s why NRF has asked Congress to ensure that the new stimulus bill provides help for all retailers. Here are our key requests:
- Increase funding for loan and financial assistance programs that help retailers retain employees and remain solvent. The Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan program for small businesses should be well-funded so retailers can continue to access them, and complex loan forgiveness paperwork should be simplified. NRF supports the Paycheck Protection Small Business Forgiveness Act, which would allow PPP loans under $150,000 to be forgiven upon completion of a one-page document.
- Enact liability protection against unwarranted lawsuits. As an industry whose employees interact with the public every day, we support a targeted and limited safe harbor for companies that implement government-issued public health safety guidelines. Retailers have taken extraordinary measures to make their stores safe. But without liability protection, the threat of litigation will severely impact business operations, slow retailers’ recovery and negatively impact the economy overall.
- Adopt tax relief to boost liquidity for retailers that have lost sales or face increased costs. The proposed Healthy Workplace Tax Credit would help cover the cost of measures taken to make stores safe such as personal protective equipment and employee testing. Congress should also allow businesses with 2020 operating losses to obtain an advance on refunds they would otherwise receive next year anyway, and should increase the size and flexibility of the Employee Retention Tax Credit. In addition, the tax treatment of charitable inventory donations should be improved – retailers currently get a larger tax break for destroying unsold merchandise than donating it.
- Allow retailers to use loan and assistance programs to cover fixed costs. Much of the assistance has focused on employee payrolls, but retailers faced fixed costs such as rent and utilities while closed, and those costs continue amid reduced sales after reopening. Congress should allow funds provided by loan programs to be used for those costs and do the same with the Employee Retention Tax Credit.
- Prioritize economic relief for individuals. The $600 in weekly federal unemployment benefits created under the CARES Act provided vital assistance. But when combined with state benefits, some individuals received more in unemployment than previously received in wages, creating a disincentive to return to work. Rather than extending the $600 benefit, NRF is urging a more targeted approach including return-to-work incentives, unemployment benefits that are proportional and account for state conditions, and expanded job training.