The National Retail Federation welcomed a nearly $500 billion package set for a vote in the Senate that would increase funding for loans to small businesses and provide other economic aid during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Retailers continue to deal with catastrophic hardships from COVID-19 and small retailers are the hardest hit,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “The CARES Act was an important first step but funding for the Paycheck Protection Program has already been exhausted and additional relief is essential to keeping employees of small retailers on the payroll and contributing to the economy until we can get through this challenge. This assistance is too important to be given out on a first-come, first-served basis and limited to those who were the quickest to file their applications. This measure will ensure that those who need assistance the most will receive it. It should be passed and signed into law before this health crisis turns into any more of an economic crisis than it already is.”

The Senate is expected to vote soon on the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, which would provide an additional $300 billion for Small Business Administration loans beyond the original $350 billion provided under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act signed into law last month. Additional funds would go to hospitals, testing and other needs.

Nearly 200,000 small retailers have taken part in the Paycheck Protection Program, NRF says, receiving an average loan of $155,000 each for a total of $29 billion, but funds have run out and the SBA is no longer accepting new applications.