U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, joined by John Vickery, owner of W.S. Emerson Co., speaks to the media after a tour through the Brewer company in this July 31, 2020, file photo. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

A national small-business group endorsed U.S. Sen. Susan Collins on Friday as it announced a major ad campaign supporting her.

The conservative National Federation of Independent Business made the announcement as Collins, a Republican, toured PDQ Doors in Hampden on Friday morning.

In announcing the endorsement, the group cited Collins work on the Paycheck Protection Program, which Congress approved as part of a slate of coronavirus-relief measures to bolster small businesses and keep workers on payroll. The program provided $2.2 billion to more than 27,000 Maine businesses, according to the National Federation of Independent Business.

“Many Maine small-business owners faced losing all they worked a lifetime to build during the closures and restrictions due to COVID-19, and the Paycheck Protection Program loans served as a lifeline,” the group’s Maine state director, David Clough, said in a statement. “Senator Collins understanding of small business and their importance to jobs and the economy is indispensable and will be vital to helping Maine move forward with its recovery.”

The organization also announced on Friday a six-figure digital and broadcast ad campaign to support Collins and Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina.

It’s the latest spending announced for the heavily targeted U.S. Senate race that is already the most expensive in Maine history. Through Aug.13, independent expenditures in the race have topped $22 million, much of going toward negative advertisements.

Collins will face Democratic Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon and independents Lisa Savage of Solon and Max Linn of Bar Harbor in a race that will use ranked-choice voting.

Correction: An earlier version of this report misstated the sum of money Maine businesses received from the Paycheck Protection Program.