By Brecken Branstrator
Washington, D.C.—The retail industry is asking the White House for help, and quickly, in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

Retail is the largest private sector employer, with one in four workers either directly or indirectly involved, and as such is being hit hard by social distancing and mandatory store closures across the country.

To encourage quick help from the federal government, 90 retail trade organizations have sent a joint letter to President Trump urging a quick response to help businesses survive.

It starts by applauding the administration and Congress for their efforts to minimize the fallout from the virus but quickly goes on to talk about the struggles faced by the retail industry at this time.

“The biggest single issue facing the industry right now is liquidity, and federal stimulus efforts must be swift and flexible enough to address the urgent need for access to credit to keep these businesses afloat,” it said.

It has been signed by trade organizations Jewelers of America, Jewelers Vigilance Committee, the Women’s Jewelry Association and the Tri State Jewelers Association, as well as such organizations as the National Retail Federation, state retailer groups, the Accessories Council, Council of Fashion Designers of America and the Fashion Jewelry & Accessories Trade Association, among many others.

The letter offers data provided by the NRF, which predicts the U.S. retail sector could see a reduction of 20 percent or more in sales over a three-month period—based on comparable declines in China—resulting in a total estimated loss of $429.9 billion and putting millions of jobs at risk.

“Federal relief is paramount in the fight to protect our members and their employees. We will continue to advocate for our members together with other industry associations to amplify our voices at the national level,” WJA Executive Director Jennifer Markas said in a press release about the letter.

David Bonaparte, president & CEO of Jewelers of America, said: “Our fight to protect retailers is more important than ever. Jewelers of America is fully committed to giving our members a voice during this challenging time and by joining forces, our collective voice will be heard.”

The letter encouraged a plan from the government that addresses the concerns of businesses of all kinds and sizes and provides a “bridge” to help them stay alive during the crisis.

The White House and Senate struck a deal early Wednesday morning regarding a $2 billion stimulus package to revive the struggling economy.

Called “the largest rescue package in American history,” full details of the package have yet to be released but news outlets have reported it does provide direct payments to individuals and families, small business loans, unemployment insurance benefits and loans for distressed companies.

The Senate will reconvene at noon Wednesday and is expected to pass the stimulus later in the day.

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