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April 17 COVID-19 Update: Here’s what Rhode Island businesses need to know

As the news surrounding the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, our team at blumshapiro is staying focused on answering the local business community’s most pressing questions. As of Friday,
April 17
, here are the latest updates leaders in Rhode Island’s business community need to know.

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Insights  <  April 17 COVID-19 Update: Here’s what Rhode Island businesses need to know

As the news surrounding the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, our team at blumshapiro is staying focused on answering the local business community’s most pressing questions. As of Friday,
April 17
, here are the latest updates leaders in Rhode Island’s business community need to know.

As the news surrounding the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, our team at blumshapiro is staying focused on answering the local business community’s most pressing questions.

As of Friday, April 17, here are the latest updates leaders in Rhode Island’s business community need to know. To view last weeks updates, click here

Real-Time Updates

blumshapiro Insights: Industry-by-Industry

Our team at blumshapiro is working every day to provide you with the latest information pertaining to the individual industries in which you operate. You can find real-time updates within the following links:

Our firm’s complete suite of COVID-19 webinars, articles and federal and state guidelines can be found by clicking here.

The Latest – Rhode Island Caseload and Restrictions

Gov. Raimondo discusses COVID-19 impact model

Let’s start with the latest numbers: As of Friday afternoon, 4,177 Rhode Islanders had tested positive for COVID-19. Two-hundred and fifty-two patients are currently in the hospital, and 118 residents have unfortunately passed away. The Rhode Island Department of Health this week launched an online portal that provides a daily update on Rhode Island’s COVID-19 caseload. You can find it by clicking here.

During her daily press conference on Thursday, April 16, Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo provided a look into the predictive models her administration is using to track the curve of the virus. Developed and maintained by Johns Hopkins and Brown Universities in consultation with the University of Washington, the model provides two scenarios for the spread of COVID-19 in Rhode Island: a “best guess,” and a “higher scenario.”

According to the model, Rhode Island is looking at a peak of COVID-19 cases sometime between April 27 – May 3 with hospitalizations during the peak ranging between 2,250 – 4,300.

Cloth facemasks now mandatory at Rhode Island businesses

Gov. Raimondo this week signed an executive order officially mandating that cloth face masks be worn by virtually all employees at virtually all Rhode Island businesses. This executive order takes effect on Saturday, April 18. It specifically impacts “customer-facing, office-based, non-profit and manufacturing” businesses.

Employers are required by law to provide their employees with appropriate face coverings and enforce this mandate in their respective workplaces. The Dept. of Business Regulation plans to make “spots checks” this weekend to ensure compliance with this new order.

Several local manufacturers are making and selling cloth face coverings. Rhode Island Monthly has a helpful roundup of options that you can find by clicking here.

Governors across country team up to develop regional recovery plan

As states across the country prepare for the imminent peak in COVID-19 cases, everybody seems to be focused on a shared goal: reopening the statewide, regional and national economies. Governor Raimondo this week joined a group of neighboring leaders in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Massachusetts to launch a cooperative task force to develop a plan for economic recovery.

Providence Business News has more on this group. Read their coverage by clicking here.

The Latest Tax Information

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo announced in early March that the state would mirror the federal government’s decision to postpone the April 15 tax filing deadline to July 15. The Division of Taxation made that announcement official a few weeks later, sending out an advisory to tax professionals on Friday, March 27, which was most recently updated on Monday, April 6.

Paycheck Protection Program funds run dry; businesses await next steps

As of Thursday morning, April 16, the $349 billion in federal funding to support the Paycheck Protection Program had been exhausted. The Small Business Administration is no longer accepting applications for these loans, and applications that were in progress prior to Thursday morning’s announcement have been frozen.

Clearly, the national demand for the PPP loan was extraordinary, as the funds ran dry in less than two weeks. Here in Rhode Island, according to the local SBA office, more than 5,000 loans were approved totaling just under $1 billion.

With the PPP fund depleted, businesses across the country are going to need to start considering a “Plan B” to secure the resources they need to navigate this crisis. One option is the Federal Reserve’s newly established Main Street Lending Program. You can learn more about this program by clicking here.

Many people expect the federal government to replenish the PPP with new funds in the coming weeks (or sooner). There is currently a proposal in Congress to secure an additional $250 billion in stimulus funds, but this has not yet been approved. Our team at blumshapiro is tracking these developments closely, and we will provide the latest information as it becomes available.

Federal government begins delivering stimulus checks to individuals

If you were eligible for any stimulus funds activated by the CARES Act, it’s likely that money has already been deposited into your account. They began hitting direct-deposit accounts earlier this week, and physical checks – if they haven’t arrived yet – should be in your mailbox soon.

Santander extends $150 million line of credit to Rhode Island

Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner reported this week that the state of Rhode Island has secured a new, $150 million line of credit from Santander Bank. According to WPRI.com reporter Ted Nesi, these funds will be used to “ensure the state has enough cash to keep operating now that income tax payments have been delayed.”

Rhode Island airports to split $24 million in COVID-19 stimulus funding

It’s been a tough month for the global air travel industry. Rhode Island’s six state-owned airports will split just over $24 million in federal stimulus funds to help make up for lost business during the last several weeks of social distancing restrictions.

The bulk of the package with be funneled to T.F. Green Airport, with the remaining funds being split among Westerly State Airport; Block Island State Airport; Quonset State Airport; Newport State Airport; and North Central State Airport.

Resources for Rhode Island Businesses & Individuals

Updates from cities & towns

The City of Newport has become the latest community to forgive tax penalties and interest, suggesting there may be additional relief for individuals and businesses that continue to suffer financial hardship because of the coronavirus. Learn more by clicking here.

In Providence, the city’s first round of emergency loans have been distributed. Among the recipients: Friskie Fries, Alley Cat Providence, the Fearless Fish Market and Rent Sons. Providence Business News has more; read their coverage by clicking here. Providence is constantly updating its website to provide businesses with the latest information and resources. Stay up to date by clicking here.

The City of East Providence partnered with the East Providence Area Chamber of Commerce to launch two small business assistance loan programs related to COVID-19. Learn more – and apply – by clicking here.

The City of Pawtucket and the Pawtucket Business Development Corporation also rolled out a new, low-interest financing program to help local businesses. Businesses can access up to $10,000 in working capital under this “unique financing tool.” Learn more by clicking here.

In addition to these local programs, there is a near-endless list of available grants currently being offered across the country. Inc.com has a great roundup on its website; find it by clicking here.

Sprout CoWorking launch webinar series

From discussing human resources best practices during this time of crisis to helping “microbusinesses” navigate COVID-19, Sprout CoWorking is working with the Providence Chamber of Commerce to host a long list of webinars in the coming weeks. Catch up on their full schedule of upcoming events by clicking here.

Here are a few additional webinar resources that may be helpful:

HealthSourceRI extends Special Enrollment Period

If you are uninsured, don’t worry about missing the open enrollment deadline quite yet. HealthSourceRI has extended its new COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period through April 30. To get started, visit www.healthsourceri.com and click on the “Special Enrollment” screen.

Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee continues hosting regular business forum conference calls

Typically held on Tuesdays and Fridays at noon each week, Lt. Gov. McKee’s business forum conference calls cover a wide range of topics related to the COVID-19 crisis. They are free to join and open to the public. You can keep an eye on the weekly schedule – and dial-in information – by following Lt. Gov. McKee on Facebook.

Resources for the local construction industry

The Rhode Island Building & Construction Trades Council has added a number of resources on its website. “While the COVID-19 crisis is certainly an epic challenge, I am certain we can get through the days ahead if we stand together as one union,” said RIBCTC President Michael Sabitoni in a letter to its members.

You can catch up on all the available construction resources by clicking here.

LeadingAge is hosting daily update calls for long-term care facilities

The nation’s elderly population is among the most impacted by this crisis. LeadingAge is developing essential guidance and tools and curating the most relevant resources for aging services providers across the continuum of care. You can catch up on their latest resources by clicking here, or sign up for their daily webinars here.

Staying with long-term care, here are a few additional updates and resources:

Relief Fund for Rhode Island arts and culture workers 

The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts – along with the Rhode Island Foundation, the City of Providence and the Alliance of Artist Communities – recently launched a relief fund to support local self-employed freelance artists. Grants of $1,000 will be awarded and disbursed on a weekly basis to eligible artists across the state. Learn more by clicking here.

Speaking of the arts, the National Endowment for the Arts has also rolled out guidelines to “swiftly distribute funding to nonprofit arts organizations” across the country. The Endowment received $75 million in the CARES Act and is planning to award 40 percent of those funds directly to state and regional arts agencies. Learn more, and apply, by clicking here.

“Bridge loan” program for restaurants and micro-businesses

Rhode Island Commerce worked with the Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC), the Rhode Island Hospitality Association and Bank Newport to launch a “short-term bridge loan program for restaurants and small businesses” operating in Rhode Island.

Funded through $1 million from Rhode Island Commerce and $1 million from Bank Newport, this program is only available to restaurants and businesses with 1-10 employees. Learn more by clicking here.

Staying with Rhode Island Commerce, here are a few additional resources:

Plus, here are a few more links specific to the restaurant and hospitality industry:

State launches “Rhode Island Delivers” program

In an effort to help residents who have been ordered into temporary quarantine, the state of Rhode Island has partnered with a handful of local grocery stores and delivery services to launch the Rhode Island Delivers initiative. Learn more by clicking here.

Rhode Island Student Loan Authority providing aid to local businesses

The CARES Act includes a provision that will allow employers to provide a student-loan repayment benefit to employees on a tax-free basis. Here in Rhode Island, the state’s Student Loan Authority is encouraging local businesses to take advantage of that federal program by offering a 10% match per employee covered by a repayment program of a participating company. Learn more about their program by clicking here.

Capital Good Fund launches Crisis Relief Loans

The Capital Good Fund has developed an emergency loan program – ranging from $300 – $1,500 – to help individuals and families who have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. These loans can be used for paying utilities, covering medical bills, paying rent, purchasing groceries and other uses. Learn more by clicking here.

How you can help

Support Local:

Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee worked with the small business community to launch a new website that helps Rhode Islanders connect with and support their favorite shops, stores and restaurants. Learn more – and a buy a gift card to your favorite restaurant – by clicking here.

Donate to the COVID-19 Response Fund

The Rhode Island Foundation and United Way teamed up at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis to create a dedicated philanthropic fund to support the non-profit organizations on the front lines of the pandemic.

The fund is currently accepting grant applications. Learn more, donate, or apply by clicking here.

Next Steps

We will be providing regular updates over the next several weeks as new developments are made available. If you have any questions whatsoever, please do not hesitate to reach out. We are here to help you with your tax and business advisory needs.

In the meantime, you can refer to the following state agencies and associations for the latest information:

Finally, let’s end with some good news

It’s been a long few weeks. But, in times of crisis, Rhode Island’s business community never fails to come together. Let’s end with a few words of thanks.

Thank you to Blount Small Ship Adventures, which is opening up its vessels as temporary housing to impacted medical workers across the region.

Thank you to Industrious Spirit Company, a Rhode Island-based distillery that is creatively using its high-volume alcohol byproduct to produce free hand sanitizer. This company was featured on Late Night with Seth Meyers earlier this month; check it out by clicking here.

Thank you to UpServe, a Rhode Island-based restaurant software company, which is waiving its subscription fees to help food & beverage businesses get through this crisis.

Thank you to G-Form, which decided to transition its North Smithfield factory to produce thousands of protective face shields every day.

And finally, thank you to SencorpWhite, which delivered machinery to help manufacturers – including Honeywell, which has a plant in Rhode Island – make N95 masks for front line healthcare professionals across the country.

COVID-19 Business Resources

Disclaimer:  The contents of this resource are for general informational purposes only.  While every effort has been made to ensure its accuracy, the information is provided “as is” and no representations are made that the content is error-free.  We have no obligation to update any content, comments or other information for retroactive or prospective interpretations or guidance provided by regulators, financial institutions or others.  The information is not intended to constitute legal advice or replace the advice of a qualified professional.  There are areas of the CARES Act where additional clarification from the Treasury Department and the SBA is needed.  Your judgment and interpretation of the act may be needed.  Users should consult with their legal counsel and representatives of the lending institution regarding the proper completion of their application and supporting documentation.

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