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April 24 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 24, here are the latest updates leaders in Rhode Island’s business community need to know.

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Insights  <  April 24 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 24, 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 24, here are the latest updates leaders in Rhode Island’s business community need to know. To view last weeks updates, click here

BREAKING NEWS – FEDERAL STIMULUS FUNDS 

Congress passes another federal aid package

A new, $484 billion federal stimulus package passed through the House of Representatives late in the evening on Thursday. President Trump is expected to sign this new bill into law as early as Friday, April 24.

Here’s where the money is going:

  • $310 billion is earmarked to replenish the in-demand Paycheck Protection Program (more on that below)
  • Around $60 billion will be used to replenish the SBA-led Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program and its associated grants
  • $75 billion will be appropriated to the Department of Health and Human Services to support hospitals and health centers
  • $25 billion is being pumped directly into the effort to improve our national COVID-19 testing capacity
  • $600 million is being directed to Federally Qualified Health Centers through Section 330 grants, and $225 million is headed to rural health clinics across the country

We will provide the latest updates on our website.

Federal Paycheck Protection Program to be replenished

The Paycheck Protection Program, a key piece of the original CARES Act that included $350 billion in financial relief earmarked for small businesses across the country, ran dry last week. But it will be replenished soon. Congress approved, and the president is expected to sign, legislation that will pump an additional $310 billion into the in-demand loan program.

It’s important to note that several businesses in Rhode Island and across the country are still “urgently waiting” for their approved PPP loans to come through, according to a survey conducted by NFIB. Just as important to note: Financial institutions across the country expect these new dollars will be exhausted within days.

So far in Rhode Island, the Small Business Administration says more than 7,300 PPP loans have been approved for a total of more than $1.3 billion in funding. If you think your business is eligible for relief under the PPP loan or any other federally funded program, it’s important that you contact your financial advisor as soon as possible.

THE LATEST – COVID-19 IN RHODE ISLAND

Rhode Island schools closed for the year; caseload continues to spike; cloth masks still the norm 

Let’s start with the latest numbers: As of Thursday evening, 6,699 Rhode Islanders had tested positive for COVID-19. Two-hundred and sixty-seven people were in the hospital, and – tragically – a total of 202 Rhode Islanders had passed away due to the virus.

The Rhode Island Department of Health is updating the state’s COVID-19 statistics in real time. You can see those numbers by clicking here.

Think you might have COVID-19? Before you panic, check out the Rhode Island Department of Health’s online symptoms survey by clicking here.

In terms of state policy, the signature announcement of this week was the decision to close public school buildings for the duration of the school year. State leaders say “distance learning” is going well, and, at least for the rest of this academic year, it’s here to stay.

In other Rhode Island news, cloth face coverings have been part of our day-to-day lives for two weeks now. As a reminder: All customer-facing, office-based, non-profit and manufacturing businesses must provide their employees with cloth-based face coverings to wear at all times while they’re at work.

If you’re look for a mask of your own, 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.

THE LATEST – REOPENING RHODE ISLAND’S ECONOMY

Governor Raimondo outlines path to reopening the economy

There’s no getting around it: We’re not going to be “back to normal” anytime soon. According to public health experts, Rhode Island has not yet seen its peak in positive COVID-19 cases. That’s expected to come toward the end of the month or into early May. But that doesn’t mean we can’t start thinking about what our path to recovery is going to look like.

During her press conference on Monday, April 20, Gov. Raimondo outlined the six “key indicators” she and her team are tracking while putting together their plan to reopen the state’s economy. Those six key indicators range from the simple – Has the rate of spread decreased? – to the more complex – Does our healthcare system have the capacity and the PPE to handle future surges?

The governor said she plans to announce additional details on the plan to reopen the economy as early as next week. In the meantime, in case you were wondering, her approval numbers are skyrocketing.

U.S. Treasury provides guidelines on state’s stimulus cash

As part of the sweeping stimulus package known as the CARES Act, the federal government doled out more than $150 billion to state governments across the country. These funds included $1.25 billion for Rhode Island.

Here’s where we are as of Friday, April 24: The state of Rhode Island has received $625 million of its $1.25 billion slice of the CARES Act pie. These dollars are sitting in Rhode Island’s coffers as state leaders work toward deciphering the federal guidelines that dictate how they can be spent. This week, the U.S. Treasury Department released some early guidelines on how state leaders can spend it.

The catch: The U.S. Treasury’s guidance clarified in no uncertain terms that these stimulus funds can only be used to cover unexpected expenses brought on by the COVID-19 crisis. In other words, state leaders aren’t going to be able to use these funds to cover expenses that were included in our pre-COVID budgets.

Senator Jack Reed – the senior member of Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation and a key architect of the CARES Act itself – has spoken out against this federal guidance, saying it “creates bureaucratic barriers and red tape outside of the law.” He is calling on President Trump to “quickly reverse course.”

We are closely tracking the latest developments on Rhode Island’s federal stimulus funds, and will provide updates on our website.

THE LATEST – NEW FINANCIAL RELIEF PROGRAMS FOR BUSINESSES

NEW: Rhode Island rolls out Microenterprise Stabilization Grant Program (MSGP)

Introduced by Rhode Island Commerce on Thursday, April 23, the MSGP is designed to provide financial relief to small businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19 but left out of federal stimulus programs. The program can provide up to $5,000 to so-called microenterprises, which are defined as “bona fide business entities with between two-five employees” whose owners’ total household income must be 80% less than their hometown’s median income.

These loans are only available in participating towns and cities across Rhode Island. Learn more about the program, and find the links to apply, by clicking here.

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

NEW: Department of Health & Human Services announces funding to healthcare providers

The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) has announced $30 billion in immediate relief funding to healthcare providers in support of the national response to COVID-19, as part of the distribution of the $100 billion provider relief fund provided for in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

This site is open to all healthcare providers, regardless of network affiliation or payer contract. HHS is contracting with UnitedHealth Group to facilitate delivery of the funds. Learn more, and apply, by clicking here. 

NEW: LISC, Citizens Bank distribute Small Business Recovery Grants

Citizens Bank teamed up with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation last week to launch a Small Business Recovery Grant Program. The program offered eligible businesses grants of up to $7,500 to help limit layoffs and continue to provide employee benefits.

Citizens and LISC began accepting and fulfilling applications on Monday. The organizations said the fund was exhausted before the end of the week.

LISC is currently promoting several other grants on its website, including a few that were funded by joint donations from Verizon and Sam’s Club. Learn more by clicking here.

NEW: Small Business Administration resources

The Small Business Administration’s Rhode Island District Office is promoting a couple of webinars scheduled for next week. Sign up by clicking here.

Plus, remember: The SBA funds a network of partners that offer local businesses free counselling and guidance through this crisis. Here are the links to learn more:

NEW: Wounded Warrior Project and Disabled American Veterans announce relief efforts

The Wounded Warrior Project committed $10 million to “help meet the immediate needs of warriors who are in urgent and significant financial crisis” due to this crisis. Learn more by clicking here.

Disabled American Veterans also launched a program to financially support veterans across the country. Through this program, DAV is planning to provide at least 2,500 grants of $250 to self-employed veterans. 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.

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 assisted 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.

THE WEEK AHEAD – UPCOMING WEBINARS, TRAININGS AND MORE

NEW: RISCPA, RIMA team up for open conference call with Congressional delegation

Senators Reed and Whitehouse, and Congressmen David Cicilline and James Langevin will join the Rhode Island Society of CPAs and the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association next week to discuss Rhode Island’s path to economic recovery.

The call will be held on Tuesday, April 28 at 3 p.m. Register here.

ONGOING: Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee continues hosting business forum 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.

NEW: Eat Drink Rhode Island will help you decide on tonight’s takeout dinner

Dave Dadekian has transitioned his Eat Drink Rhode Island website into a one-stop shop to support the state’s struggling restaurant and bar community. The site has a little bit of everything. Here are a few of the popular landing spots.

INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT – HOSPITALITY

Dine-in service remains closed; restaurant industry seeking further relief

Dine-in service at restaurants in Rhode Island and in most states across the country has been prohibited for more than a month. According to the National Restaurant Association, these restrictions have led to a loss of more than 8 million jobs and $30 billion in total revenue industry-wide.

Another group hit hard by this crisis are the hotels, motels, inns and bed & breakfasts making up the hospitality industry. As of April 15, more than 80 percent of hotel rooms across the country were empty – and the national industry had lost more than $13 billion in room revenue.

INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT – LONG-TERM HEALTHCARE

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:

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 nonprofit organizations on the frontlines of the pandemic.

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

OUR 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.

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

SHOUT OUT TO HELPING HANDS

In times of crisis, Rhode Island’s business community is coming together. Let’s end with a few words of thanks.

Thank you to our friends at Swan Fabrics, which – from the start of the pandemic – has worked with its customers to provide materials for much-needed personal protective equipment for the nation’s frontline medical workers.

Thank you to Westerly-based retailer Ivory Ella, which is building and donating activity kits to children’s hospitals across the country. Providence Business News has more.

Thank you to Aetna Health, which is discounting administrative costs to help local businesses with their health premiums during this difficult time.

Thank you to Swissline Precision LLC, which donated $25,000 to support the Rhode Island Food Pantry and the Franklin Farms Food Pantry.

Thank you to the local Dunkin’ franchisees, who are supporting the brand’s Dunkin’ Coffee Break initiative, which encourages folks to treat frontline medical workers to a coffee while raising funds for Dunkin’s Joy in Childhood Foundation.

And thank you to local team at COX media, which is offering local restaurants two weeks of free TV advertising. Providence Business News has more.

 

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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