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National Retail Federation: Expand ‘essential retail’ to include pet stores, truck rest stops and more

Takoma Park pet store The Big Bad Woof in Washington Tuesday May 14, 2019. (Photo by J. Lawler Duggan/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

J. Lawler Duggan | The Washington Post via Getty Images

A major retail trade group is asking the White House to clarify guidance from federal health officials and help keep key businesses like pet stores, truck rest stops and distribution centers open.

In a letter to President Donald Trump on Thursday, the National Retail Federation’s CEO Matthew Shay said some state and local officials are ordering retailers to shut down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus – but also closing businesses that should stay open. They said the government should better explain CDC instructions to limit gatherings to less than 50 people and exempt big-box stores, grocers and wholesale clubs where there’s space for people to spread out.

“There remains a need for clear national guidance to resolve questions caused by a number of conflicting state and local orders that are triggering consumer, worker and business confusion, leading to cascading negative impacts on communities across the country,” the letter said.

The group called for a broader definition of “essential retail businesses.” They listed retailers that should be excluded from mandated closures, including pet stores, distribution centers, farm stores with livestock feed, hardware stores, gas stations and highway rest areas for truck drivers.

Earlier this week, the trade group asked the White House for a government-backed loan program to help retailers as stores temporarily shutter, saying losses could add up to tens of billions of dollars a week.

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