Article

COVID-19 Update for June 12: 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, June 12, here are the latest updates leaders in Rhode Island’s business community need to know.

< Back to Insights
Insights  <  COVID-19 Update for June 12: 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, June 12, 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, June 12, here are the latest updates leaders in Rhode Island’s business community need to know. To view last weeks updates, click here. 

THE LATEST – NATIONAL NEWS

PPP changes approved; lenders, borrowers awaiting further guidance

More than two months have passed since the Paycheck Protection Program went live, and to say it’s been a bit of a journey would be an understatement.

Here’s a quick primer in case you’re catching up.

The loan program launched in early April with an initial $349 billion earmarked to help small businesses across the country cope with the financial impact of the crisis while enticing them to keep their workforces intact. The original funds were exhausted in less than two weeks, and the federal government quickly replenished the program with an additional $320 billion.

Meanwhile, borrowers and lenders have grappled with seemingly unclear guidance during the application process; iconic brands like the Los Angeles Lakers and Ruth’s Chris Steak House caught heat for receiving loans under a program developed to support small businesses (both were among the many businesses that opted to return their funds); and – to further prove that Rhode Island is at the center of the universe – two local businessmen became the subjects of the nation’s first case of alleged fraud related to the PPP (they wouldn’t be the last).

Fast-forward to today. According to the most recent data released by the U.S. Small Business Administration, more than 16,000 PPP loans totaling more than $1.8 billion had been approved in the state of Rhode Island. Nationally, more than 4.5 million loans totaling more than $510 billion had been processed. That leaves around $130 billion in the program yet to be claimed.

As we discussed last week, federal lawmakers recently approved legislation known as the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020, which introduced important changes to the federally funded loan program. The top-line updates include an extension of the covered period for loan forgiveness from 8 weeks to 24 weeks, and a reduction in the percentage of the loan that must be used for payroll costs from 75% to 60%.

Mark Hayward, the district director of the SBA’s Rhode Island office, praised the bill, writing in a statement that it will “provide businesses with more time and flexibility to keep their employees on the payroll and ensure their continued operations as we safely reopen our country.”

As for next steps, though… well, they remain to be seen. Business owners and lenders alike are still awaiting further guidance on the loan forgiveness process from the Small Business Administration and the U.S. Treasury, forcing financial professionals to – as blumshapiro partner David Fontes explained it in a recent interview with Providence Business News – “make their best educated guesses on the details of how the policies will play out.”

As always, our team at blumshapiro is tracking the latest developments pertaining to the Paycheck Protection Program and will post further information on our website.

Should we still expect another federal stimulus package?

The short answer: We still don’t know. The House-approved, $3 trillion package known as the HEROES Act doesn’t appear any closer to a vote on the Senate floor, and most experts agree that any serious movement regarding another sweeping stimulus bill won’t take place until the end of July at the earliest.

An important question for many Americans: What’s going to happen to the extra $600 per week in unemployment payments? That enhancement, which was enacted by the CARES Act at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, expires at the end July.

We’re closely tracking these negotiations, and we’ll provide the latest on our website.

Unemployment plummets; Federal Reserve vows to buoy economy; Main Street Lending Program expands

Let’s wrap up the national section with three quick hits.

#1: You likely heard that the national unemployment rate seems to be heading in the right direction. The May data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics places unemployment at 13.3%, down from April’s rate of 14.7% and significantly under some projections that predicted it was poised to balloon to 20% or higher.

#2: The Federal Reserve released a statement on Wednesday recommitting to “using its full range of tools to support the U.S. economy in this challenging time” and announcing it would maintain the target range for the federal funds rate near 0%.

#3: In other Fed news, the Main Street Lending Program – set to officially launch any day now – was recently expanded to allow more small and medium-sized businesses to qualify for financial support. Our experts Barry Sussman and Stephen Bonder broke down the latest on this program for our website. Find it by clicking here.

THE LATEST – NEWS FROM RHODE ISLAND

Let’s start with the latest numbers…

As of Thursday evening, 15,862 Rhode Islanders had tested positive for COVID-19. One-hundred and forty-six patients were in the hospital, and 823 individuals had unfortunately passed away due to the virus.

Since the pandemic began, Rhode Island has processed more than 187,000 COVID-19 tests. The state’s rate of positive tests sits around 8.5%, although daily positive rates in the last week have been consistently in the 2-3% range.

WPRI.com has an insightful look at the state’s COVID-19 data; find it by clicking here.

ReopeningRI: Phase II continues; schools prepping for return to classrooms.

Two weeks into the second phase of the state’s comprehensive plan to reopen its economy, a sorely missed sense of normalcy is palpable here in the Ocean State. Rhode Islanders now have the option to go back to the office, get haircuts, go to the gym, and eat out at restaurants – all, of course, while adhering to strict social distancing requirements.

As of this writing, details for Phase III of the reopening process were not yet available, but the week did feature one big announcement: It looks like students and teachers will be returning to the classroom in September.

The details are still coming together, but expect to see spaced-out desks, strict cleaning procedures, and fewer children on buses (and, potentially, more buses). The state is earmarking $42 million of its portion of the CARES Act to help local school districts prepare their facilities and processes for this return.

Finally, bad news for the kids who like to pray for snow the night before an exam: Now that we know virtual learning is a viable solution, snow days may be a thing of the past.

General Assembly set to return; budget discussions to resume in July.

Sidelined on an extended hiatus for the last three months, Rhode Island’s General Assembly is preparing to return to the State House as early as next week for what’s expected to be an abbreviated session.

The big return for the General Assembly is expected to come in July, when lawmakers will begin the unenviable task of discussing the state budget, which is facing a projected deficit of up to $800 billion.

Providence launches new loan program for micro-businesses.

The Providence City Council, in partnership with the Providence Revolving Fund, recently launched the Providence Commercial Corridor Micro-Business Loan Program. The initiative is funded with $200,000 and will support businesses with fewer than 10 full-time employees in the service, retail and manufacturing industries.

Eligible businesses can apply for loans ranging from $500 – $5,000. Learn more about the program by clicking here.

ONGOING: Lt. Gov. Dan McKee continues hosting town halls.

Lt. Gov. McKee will only be hosting these town halls on Tuesdays at noon; Fridays are canceled until further notice. These town halls cover a wide range of topics related to the COVID-19 crisis. They are free to join and open to the public.

Here are a few ways you can join:

THE WEEK AHEAD – UPCOMING WEBINARS, TRAININGS AND MORE

ONGOING: Lt. Gov. Dan McKee continues hosting town halls.

Lt. Gov. McKee will only be hosting these town halls on Tuesdays at noon; Fridays are canceled until further notice. These town halls cover a wide range of topics related to the COVID-19 crisis. They are free to join and open to the public.

Here are a few ways you can join:

Here are a few more virtual events to add to your calendar…

The era of Zoom, Google Hangouts, GoToWebinar and other virtual platforms continues. Here are a few upcoming webinars, professional development courses and other virtual resources on the docket for next week and beyond (plus a few you may have missed).

INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT – Construction

We took a tour around the Web so you don’t have to. Here are a few interesting tidbits going around the business community this week.

Construction: On a local level, Gilbane Building Company’s Stephen Duvel shared his thoughts on coping with COVID-19 in Providence Business News. Moving nationally, a month after its largest 30-day job loss, the national construction industry added 464,000 net new jobs in May, according to the trade group Associated Builders and Contractors.

Plus: The construction industry received nearly $63 billion in PPP loans – around 12.5% of the program as a whole. OSHA released new guidance related to worker safety. And leaders in the industry are feeling confident – or, at least, more confident than they were a few months ago.

Hospitality: Indoor dining is back in Rhode Island, but there’s a learning curve (and you still can’t sit at the bar). Will COVID-19 surcharges become a thing? ICYMI: Rhode Island wants Rhode Islanders to vacation in… Rhode Island. Finally, if you’re missing Twin River, don’t worry, says the Boston Globe: It still smells the same.

Long-term care: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is distributing $15 billion to Medicaid providers that haven’t received relief. Stotler Hayes Group has a three-part webinar series in the works. Plus, an interesting read from Forbes: How to redesign long-term care in a post-COVID world.

Manufacturing: Work at a manufacturing plant in Rhode Island? You can go get a free COVID-19 test – even if you don’t have symptoms.

Plus: blumshapiro’s Janet Prisloe wrote about the spirit of innovation in the manufacturing industry. NASA just hired eight American manufacturers to begin work on a novel COVID-19 ventilator. And, is manufacturing really going to experience five years of innovation in the next 18 months?

General: It’s easy to feel scatterbrained at the moment. Here’s how to keep your team calm during a crisis. Plus: Tell your team to take some time off. They need it, and it’ll be good for your business.

ONGOING – FINANCIAL RELIEF PROGRAMS FOR BUSINESSES

We’ve mentioned most of these programs in prior weekly updates – but they’re still available, so we keep including them. Feel free to keep scrolling if you’ve read our past dispatches.

Rhode Island still accepting applications for 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:

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:

LOOKING AHEAD – THE NEW NORMAL

What does life after COVID-19 look like? That’ll be the question we all have to figure out together. Here are a few interesting look-ahead takes from the past week.

SHOUT OUT TO HELPING HANDS

We’re 13 weeks into this crisis, and Rhode Islanders are still looking out for one another.

United Way of Rhode Island is putting up $600,000 to help local nonprofits shore up their pandemic-impacted finances. Read more in Providence Business News >>

Banneker Supply Solutions, based in North Smithfield, donated their warehouse space to help Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rhode Island collect and distribute clothing and households items. Read more >>

A pair of local teachers created transparent facemasks to help students who rely on reading lips to communicate. Read more in Providence Business News >>

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.

 

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.

Continue the Conversation with Our Team
Get in touch with us.

Contact Us