The National Retail Federation urged the Senate to approve legislation introduced in the chamber this week that would create a new tax credit intended to ease the cost of steps taken to make stores and other workplaces safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is essential that we bring our economy back by ensuring that the consuming public is safe to shop again and that the retail associates that assist them are safe as well,” NRF Senior Vice President for Government Relations David French said. “The Healthy Workplace Tax Credit will go a long way to provide some additional liquidity for making the necessary investments in our stores and workers.”

According to the NRF, French’s comments came in a letter asking senators to support legislation introduced Monday by Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, that would establish a refundable tax credit against payroll taxes for 50 percent of costs incurred by businesses for COVID-19 testing, personal protective equipment, disinfecting, extra cleaning and reconfiguring workspaces. The credit is limited to $1,000 per employee per quarter for a company’s first 500 employees, $750 for the next 500 and $500 for each employee thereafter.

The measure is similar to legislation introduced in the House last week by Representative Tom Rice, R-S.C., and NRF has asked that the tax credit be included in a comprehensive coronavirus relief bill currently being drafted by House and Senate leadership. Some mid-size retailers have told NRF the cost of safety measures can be as high as $1 million a week, with face masks alone costing $30,000 a day for a 30,000-employee retailer, says the NRF. 

Safety is retailers’ top priority as stores reopen during the pandemic, and NRF called on retailers earlier this month to adopt a nationwide policy requiring customers to wear face coverings