The National Retail Federation (NRF) is urging Congress to pass legislation that would establish a federal program aimed at assisting businesses in obtaining pandemic insurance. This call for action comes as the NRF also shows its support for a $500 billion package set to be voted on in the Senate, which includes increased funding for small business loans and other forms of economic aid.
The NRF’s push for a government-backed pandemic insurance program for retailers is inspired by a similar initiative implemented after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This proposed program would provide retailers with the necessary coverage to renew leases, invest in real estate, order inventory, plan for capital improvements, and hire or re-hire employees in the months to come. Moreover, it would create a mechanism for economic recovery in the event of future pandemics.
Highlighting the urgency of the situation, NRF’s Senior Vice President for Government Relations, David French, emphasizes the need for Congress to act, stating, “When businesses couldn’t obtain coverage for acts of terrorism after 9/11, Congress stepped in. It’s time for Washington to do the same for pandemics. […] At this point, it’s virtually impossible to obtain pandemic coverage for the future, but a federally insured pandemic risk insurance program would provide businesses of all sizes the certainty they need and help rebuild confidence.”
In support of the proposed legislation, known as the Pandemic Risk Insurance Act, the NRF has joined forces with 16 other business organizations. The act, to be introduced by Representative Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., not only mandates insurance companies to offer policies that cover pandemics but also establishes a federal backstop program that reimburses them when claims related to a pandemic or epidemic surpass $250 billion nationwide. Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., is endorsing the act alongside the NRF.
Additionally, the NRF is endorsing the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, a $500 billion package expected to be voted on in the Senate. This act allocates an additional $300 billion for Small Business Administration loans, in addition to the $350 billion already provided by the CARES Act. The House is set to vote on the legislation on Thursday, and President Donald Trump has already shown his support.
However, it is important to note that the funds allocated for small business loans through the Paycheck Protection Program have already been exhausted. This has resulted in the Small Business Administration no longer accepting new applications from small retailers, despite nearly 200,000 of them having already received loans averaging $155,000 each.