March 18, 2020 / 6:32 PM / 12 days ago

Retail group seeks government-backed loans to weather coronavirus hit

FILE PHOTO: Workers wait for customers at Macy's store during the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New York City, New York, U.S., March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

(Reuters) - A retail industry group has asked the White House for a direct, government-backed loan program to help the industry combat the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, which has dampened customer spending.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) in a letter to U.S. President Donald Trump, among others, said on Wednesday retail workers would be burdened with rents and loan payments if no sales are made for weeks, with cumulative losses that could amount to tens of billions of dollars a week. (bit.ly/3d8wYch)

The pandemic, that first originated in China last year and spread to the United States, has also affected airlines, cruise operators and the travel industry.

The stimulus package sought by the Trump administration, also includes $50 billion for airlines facing bankruptcy and a possible $1,000 direct payment to individual Americans.

The Trump administration pressed on Tuesday for enactment of a $1 trillion stimulus package to cushion the economic damage from the outbreak in the United States.

Retailers such as Macy’s, J.C Penney, Nike Inc and Ralph Lauren have shut their stores for weeks to curb the spread of the virus, especially in big cities.

“The retail industry is being dramatically impacted,” NRF’s Chief Executive Officer Matthew Shay said.

“Our members tell us that the most important support they can get from the federal government would be access to credit that can sustain them until consumers are back in the marketplace.”

Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

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