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COVID-19 Update for May 26: 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 Tuesday, May 26, here are the latest updates leaders in Rhode Island’s business community need to know.

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Insights  <  COVID-19 Update for May 26: 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 Tuesday, May 26, 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 Tuesday, May 26, here are the latest updates leaders in Rhode Island’s business community need to know. To view last weeks updates, click here. 

THE LATEST – REOPENING RHODE ISLAND

Rhode Island set to begin Phase II of reopening process as early as June 1.

Let’s start with the big news from last week: Governor Gina M. Raimondo announced on Friday that the state is ready to begin “Phase II” of its comprehensive economic reopening process as early as Monday, June 1.

If you’ve been itching for some semblance of normalcy, the details of Phase II will be welcome news. The limit on social gatherings is expected to be increased from a maximum of five to 15 people; domestic travel restrictions will be relaxed; churches and other houses of worship will reopen for in-person celebrations; and state parks and beaches will reopen (with capacity limitations) just in time for another beautiful Rhode Island summer.

Most importantly, Phase II will allow a significant number of local businesses to finally reopen their doors. The state is expected to release more detailed, industry-by-industry guidance in the coming days, but – in the meantime –  here are the highlights:

  • Restaurants, which are currently limited to takeout, delivery and outdoor dining only, will be permitted to resume indoor dining service at 50% capacity. A visual representation of what indoor dining will look like can be found by clicking here.
  • Hair salons, barbershops and other personal service providers will be able to reopen with capacity and social distancing restrictions. Visual >>
  • Gyms, fitness studios and small group fitness classes can reopen their doors. Visual >>
  • Non-critical retailers can relax their current restrictions and allow for more browsing, and – new in Phase II – Rhode Island’s shopping malls can begin their reopening processes.
  • Child care services will resume on June 1. Summer camps and some youth sports can resume as early as June 29.
  • Office-based businesses are permitted to bring 33% of their workforce back to work. Anyone who can work from home is still recommended to do so.

The latest guidelines, paperwork and other updates will be published in real-time on www.ReopeningRI.com.

Chambers, trade groups partner up to provide face masks to small businesses.

The state of Rhode Island has partnered with each of Rhode Island’s Chambers of Commerce, as well as select professional trade associations, to distribute more than 500,000 face masks and much-needed disinfectant solution to small businesses across the state.

Distribution of these supplies has begun; you can learn more on the Rhode Island Commerce website by clicking here.

Before we move on, here are a few reminders on existing resources.

Rhode Island leaders say all of the indicators they’re tracking are headed in the right direction, which has given them the confidence to loosen restrictions in Phase II of our reopening process. Daily positive cases, hospitalizations and patients on ventilators are all trending down. However, it’s important to remember that this crisis is still very much ongoing.

As of Sunday, May 24, 14,065 Rhode Islanders had tested positive for COVID-19. Two-hundred and forty patients were in the hospital, and 608 individuals had tragically passed away due to the virus.

Public health experts in Rhode Island and across the country are asking residents and business owners to remain diligent as the local economy begins to open up. Here are a few resources to keep bookmarked as we forge ahead.

Finally, here are a few to-dos for business owners.

Businesses reopening during Phase I of the reopening process were asked to fill out some paperwork and print out a few forms before reopening their doors. Phase II businesses will likely be held to those same compliance standards.

Here’s where to start.

  • COVID-19 Control Plan: If you’re planning to reopen, you’ll need to develop a written plan outlining the steps you’re taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. The state has provided an easy template for this plan, which you can find by clicking here. An important note: You don’t need to submit this plan for approval. Just fill it out, sign it and put it in a drawer; you may need to present it in the case of an inspection.
  • COVID-19 Checklist: All businesses planning to reopen also need to print, sign and display a COVID-19 Checklist. You can download and print the checklist by clicking here.

THE LATEST – NATIONAL NEWS

Let’s start, as always, with the Paycheck Protection Program.

The latest, in a nutshell: Some guidance has been issued, but confusion still abounds.

The U.S. Treasury and the U.S. Small Business Administration released some guidance on loan forgiveness late last week; however, loan forgiveness may be further complicated given that original lenders are allowed to sell the loans to third parties, adding another entity in the mix when attempting to get part or all of the PPP loan forgiven.

Plus, it remains unclear whether the federal government will extend the current eight-week period to qualify for forgiveness, or if there will be any further amendments to the current rule requiring borrowers to spend at least 75% of their PPP funds on payroll costs. The U.S. Senate may vote on both of these measures as early as this week.

In the meantime, here are the most up-to-date resources and analysis:

Federal Reserve expects Main Street Lending Program to go live in June. 

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell believes four additional federal lending programs will launch as early as Monday, June 1. These programs were created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The headliner of these programs is the $600 billion Main Street Lending Program, which was created to provide support to “midsized companies with 15,000 employees or less.” Our team at blumshapiro has an overview of the Main Street Lending Program, which you can find by clicking here.

House passes HEROES Act.

On May 15, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act), a proposed $3 trillion package to “address the negative health and financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

This legislation is expected to hit a road block when it reaches the Republican-controlled Senate, but we’ll be keeping an eye on this bill, and will provide the latest as the situation develops.

LOCAL INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT – HOSPITALITY

The big Phase I news in the local hospitality industry was the return of outdoor dining.

Outdoor dining returned on May 18, and – thanks to the endless creativity and innovation within the state’s restaurant community – it seems to be going as well as it can be so far. Several municipalities across the state also passed executive orders allowing restaurants to utilize parking lots and other outdoor areas in order to meet social distancing requirements.

Now, after an unprecedented period of more than two months of restrictions, Rhode Island restaurant owners will finally be able to break out their indoor tables once Phase II begins. Indoor dining service will be by-reservation-only, and capacity limitations and social distancing restrictions will be strictly enforced.

Restaurant owners still have a little bit of time to get ready. As we mentioned, the governor and the state’s public health experts are aiming for Monday, June 1 as the official start of Phase II. As of this writing, a comprehensive set of Phase II restaurant guidelines had not been made available. Restaurant owners are recommended to visit www.ReopeningRI.com for the latest information.

In the meantime, here are a few of the latest resources from across the industry to review and bookmark.

Plus, here are a few additional interesting stories from around the Web.

Finally, before we move away from hospitality: You can donate to the Rhode Island Hospitality Association’s Employee Relief Fund, which provides employees who have been laid off due to this crisis with financial support, by clicking here.

LOCAL INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT – LONG-TERM HEALTHCARE

Long-term care providers, for the past two-plus months, have been working tirelessly to take care of a large percentage of our nation’s elderly and infirmed population. blumshapiro partner Jonathan Fink laid out his thoughts on the road to recovery for long-term care providers. You can read his analysis by clicking here.

Plus, here are a few additional resources:

THE WEEK AHEAD – UPCOMING WEBINARS, TRAININGS AND MORE

Polaris MEP has a number of upcoming manufacturing webinars.

Rhode Island’s manufacturing community can mark a few dates on their calendars:

Rhode Island Commerce is planning on hosting more virtual Town Halls. 

Leaders at Rhode Island Commerce said in a recent newsletter that they were planning more industry-specific virtual Town Halls in the coming weeks. Follow the Commerce team on Facebook for the latest programming details.

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.

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.

THE LATEST – RHODE ISLAND’S BUDGET & TAX DEADLINES

The latest on federal and state tax deadlines.

It might feel like it’s been years, but it was only last month that Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo announced that the state would mirror the federal government’s decision to postpone the April 15 tax filing deadline to July 15.

Since then, we’ve had a few additional changes on the federal side of the tax world. Joseph Feehan, blumshapiro partner, has the latest here.

ONGOING – FINANCIAL RELIEF PROGRAMS FOR BUSINESSES

We’ve mentioned most of these programs in prior weekly updates (after all, this is our tenth COVID-19 weekly update) – but they’re still available, so we keep including them. Feel free to keep scrolling if you’ve read our past dispatches.

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:

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. 

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.

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:

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 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:

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.

Is this crisis an opportunity to create a brighter future for Rhode Island? Rhode Island Foundation President and CEO Neil D. Steinberg thinks it could be. Read his guest column in Providence Business News >>

Will we be working from home forever? Some CEOs in the tech universe see that as a realistic possibility. Read more in MarketWatch >>

Will social distancing become the new normal? And how will that impact the future of office design? Leading architects and designers weight in. Read more at Inc.com >>

COVID-19 may permanently upend the national health care industry. Here are nine changes we may notice. Read more in Stat News >>

Consumer habits have changed drastically over the last several weeks. What does the future of shopping look like? Read more from Knowledge @ Wharton >>

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.

Michael Lombardi, a deep-sea diving contractor and consultant based in Middletown, invented a novel oxygen treatment hood to help hospitals treat COVID-19 patients that require ventilators. More than 2,000 hoods have been produced and shipped across the country and around the world. Read more in the Boston Globe >>

Kudos to Collette Travel Service, which has joined the COVID-19 response in Central Falls and Pawtucket by helping to lead the incident command team at CFP BEAT COVID-19. Read more in Providence Business News >>

Thanks to Delta Dental of Rhode Island, which is providing $1 million to help participating dental practices procure personal protective equipment. Read more at WPRI.com >>

Finally, thanks to Lisa Konicki and her team at the Ocean Community Chamber for working around the clock to – as Rhode Island Monthly puts it – “save Mom and Pop shops in Westerly.” Read more in Rhode Island Monthly >>

 

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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