Article

In Case You Missed It (ICYMI): Here’s Everything Rhode Island Business Owners Need to Know This Week

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 September 2, here are the latest updates leaders in Rhode Island’s business community need to know.

< Back to Insights
Insights  <  In Case You Missed It (ICYMI): Here’s Everything Rhode Island Business Owners Need to Know This Week

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 September 2, here are the latest updates leaders in Rhode Island’s business community need to know.

Between the obvious impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the upcoming election and countless other mitigating factors, 2020 has been a year of nearly constant change. Our team at blum has been working to keep our clients, colleagues and neighbors informed on the latest developments impacting the business community at large.

As a semblance of normalcy slowly but surely returns to the workplace, our Rhode Island newsletters will aim to provide a digestible (albeit lengthy), comprehensive recap of everything in the news you may have missed. As we compile these updates, we want to hear from YOU.

Is your organization facing a particular challenge that our experts may be able to explore? Do you have an educational webinar coming up that you think will help the business community? Get in touch with us, and we will do what we can to spread the word.

As of Friday, Sept. 18, here’s what you need to know.

SPOTLIGHT: THE UNCERTAIN FUTURE OF RESTAURANTS

In each of our biweekly updates, we will lead off with a topic that is particularly relevant to the local and national business communities. This week, let’s talk about an industry that couldn’t be more important to the national economy and more importantly, our own: Restaurants.

Through no fault of its own, the future of the national restaurant industry – an industry that last year contributed more than $2 trillion to the U.S. economy and supported nearly 16 million jobs across the country – is at significant risk.

According to a new survey released by the National Restaurant Association, more than 100,000 American restaurants have been forced to close since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. For context: That number represent about one in six restaurants, and means more than 3 million foodservice employees are now out of work. Perhaps even more alarming: As the nation continues to navigate the still-present COVID-19 crisis, the same survey reports roughly 40 percent of the nation’s active restaurant owners have little to no confidence that their businesses will be able to survive for the next six months.

This problem isn’t only impacting restaurant owners and their employees. Experts believe the restaurant community’s issues will create a domino effect that will ultimately hurt a wide range of industries, from tourism to arts & culture and beyond.

What can be done to put the restaurant community back on track? Well, a sudden end to the pandemic would certainly be helpful. But for right now, industry leaders say the first step is simple: The industry needs federal relief funds, and it needs them quickly.

In its recently published “Restaurant Industry Blueprint for Recovery,” the National Restaurant Association outlined a comprehensive list of actions that would provide relief and some semblance of security for the industry. Among the association’s requests: Enacting the $240 billion Restaurant and Foodservice Industry Recovery Fund; replenishing and modifying federally funded relief efforts like the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans; and creating a tax credit or grant program to help restaurateurs modify their establishments to meet social distancing standards brought on by the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the Independent Restaurant Coalition, an industry group that was launched earlier this year with the specific mission of helping restaurants survive the pandemic, is fighting for the passage of the RESTAURANTS Act, a bipartisan proposal introduced back in June that would create a $120 billion fund to help restaurant operators cover costs like payroll, benefits, rent, protective equipment and other costs.

How you can help…

Clearly, the problems the national restaurant industry is facing aren’t going to be solved overnight – and they’re not going to be solved with one big idea.

One easy way to support the restaurant community: Sign the Independent Restaurant Coalition’s letter to Congress related to the RESTAURANTS Act, which you do by clicking here.

An even simpler way to help: Buy a meal.

To help you decide on dinner tonight, here’s Rhode Island Monthly’s most recent “Diner’s Update,” which includes a great list of openings, reopenings and special offers. And here’s EatDrinkRI’s comprehensive list of local restaurants that are currently open for online ordering, take-out and dine-in service.

Finally, if you’re a restaurant owner and need help navigating these difficult times, please know that our team at blumshapiro has more than 40 years of experience in the local hospitality industry. Don’t hesitate to reach out; we are here to help.

Let’s move on to a few more updates you may have missed this week.

KEEP AN EYE ON THIS: LOCAL & FEDERAL UPDATES

Has there been any movement on the next federal stimulus bill?

Short answer: Sort of. Congress still hasn’t reached an agreement, but we may be getting closer.

At the end of August, the Democrat-led House of Representatives and the Republican-led Senate were roughly $900 billion apart on their respective stimulus proposals. Since then, Senate Republicans introduced a $650 billion proposal (deemed the “skinny” relief bill), which fell flat, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers known as the Problem Solvers Caucus introduced their $1.52 trillion “March to Common Ground” plan, which is currently on the table.

The Problem Solvers Caucus’ proposed plan includes, among other items, a second round of $1,200 direct payments; an extension on enhanced unemployment insurance benefits; $500 billion in funding for state and local governments; $145 billion to support primary, secondary and higher education institutions; $100 billion to ramp up COVID-19 testing; and $95 billion in new funds to support small business loan programs.

The plan hasn’t yet been endorsed by Congressional leaders on either side of the aisle, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens next. Perhaps the most promising sign that we may see an agreement at some point this year: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the House will stay in session until a deal is struck.

How about the Paycheck Protection Program?

Business owners and financial institutions in Rhode Island and across the country are still working on navigating the Paycheck Protection Program’s loan forgiveness process – and that long process created some confusion this week as businesses prepared to file their third-quarter estimated tax payments.

As we mentioned in our last update, the U.S. Small Business Administration recently rolled out updated guidance on loan forgiveness for the Paycheck Protection Program, including new interim final rules and updated FAQ documents.

blumshapiro partner Bill Moore broke down the newly issued guidance on our website. Read his analysis by clicking here, and catch up on the latest below.

blumshapiro has been at the forefront of interpreting PPP guidance and providing trusted resources for our clients since the program launched in April. Our team is working with clients to assist them with navigating through the compliance requirements of the loan forgiveness program, to ensure forgiveness is received, help expedite the loan forgiveness process and provide a reliable and trusted source of information. You can learn more about our loan forgiveness services by clicking here.

What’s new on the vaccine front?

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Health and Humans Services and the Department of Defense released information on “Operation Warp Speed,” the Trump Administration’s long-term strategy to deliver vaccines “as quickly and reliably as possible.” Those documents outline a plan to produce more than 100 million doses of an approved vaccine by January 2021.

What’s the timeframe for an approved, available vaccine? It depends on who you ask.

This week, President Trump said a vaccine may be available before the November 3 general election, perhaps as early as mid-October. Dr. Anthony Fauci said his team would “put their money” on a late November/early December timeframe for the first, limited wave of vaccinations. And Dr. Robert Redfield, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said a vaccine likely won’t be widely available to the general American public until the third quarter of 2021.

Meanwhile: Nine of the world’s leading biopharmaceutical companies signed a joint pledge to “uphold high ethical standards” as they continue their work toward approved vaccines. And the Kaiser Family Foundation recently released a poll that found, even if a vaccine was made available for the November 3 election, the majority of Americans wouldn’t be comfortable getting it.

Quick Hits: More national news…

Six months into the pandemic, the U.S. economy is currently operating at about 79% of where it was in early March. Here’s more from Moody’s Analytics.

With COVID-19 at the top of our minds, public health experts are asking folks to not forget about the good-old-fashion flu. They say flu shots are going to be a key factor of avoiding a scary-sounding “twindemic” this winter.

Finally: Did your business decide to opt out of the recently enacted payroll tax deferral option? You’re not alone.

THE LATEST – NEWS FROM RHODE ISLAND

Let’s start with the latest numbers…

As of Wednesday evening, 23,358 Rhode Islanders had tested positive for COVID-19. Eighty-four patients were currently in the hospital, and 1,081 individuals had passed away due to the virus. The state had processed 654,103 COVID-19 tests.

Rhode Island Commerce expands RestoreRI Small Business Grant Program…

The RestoreRI Small Business Grant Program, a $50 million initiative that officially launched at the beginning of August, has already distributed more than $7 million in funding across nearly 800 small businesses. And starting next week, Rhode Island Commerce says the program’s eligibility requirements will be altered to support a wider range of businesses.

Among other changes, Commerce says the RestoreRI program will soon be opened up to sole proprietors and other businesses with no employees, and the eligibility requirements related to revenue loss will be decreased in order to serve “non-severely impacted businesses.” State officials say these changes are being made to “offer much-needed funds to as many small businesses as possible, while adhering to the checks and balances that the Federal Cares Act requires.”

The updated eligibility requirements, along with application instructions, will be posted at www.commerceri.com as early as next week.

State leaders want your opinions…

The Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce is conducting a Business Confidence Survey in order to better understand current business conditions. Take the two-minute survey by clicking here.

The Rhode Island Manufacturers Association is asking for local businesses’ thoughts on small business assistance. Their survey can be found by clicking here.

Plus: It’s not a survey, but it’s certainly worth considering: Goldman Sachs is currently accepting applications for its 10,000 Small Businesses initiative, which aims to help business leaders learn practical skills in topics such as negotiation, marketing and employee management. Apply here.

Here are a few other programs created to support local businesses…

Restore RI isn’t the only program Rhode Island leaders have launched in recent weeks. A few others include…

  • Back to Work Rhode Island is a program led out of the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training that aims to help unemployed Rhode Islanders find work. By partnering directly with local businesses, the initiative aims to connect people with job opportunities in vibrant sectors across the state. Learn more by clicking here.
  • Rhode Island Reconnect, a program from the Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner, was created to help Rhode Islanders change careers, learn a new trade or work toward a degree or professional certificate. Learn more by clicking here.
  • The Neighborhood Business Grant Program, funded by Lowe’s and administered by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), is offering financial support to small businesses across Rhode Island. The initiative has been funded with $400,000, and minority- and women-owned businesses will be prioritized. Learn more by clicking here.

A full list of COVID-19 business resources is available on Rhode Island Commerce’s website. Find it by clicking here.

Quick Hits: Rhode Island news & updates…

It’s not without its challenges, but school is officially back in session here in Rhode Island. WPRI.com has a great roundup of Back to School coverage on its website; check it out here. Plus, the state has launched a website dedicated to providing Back to School information. Head to www.back2schoolri.com for the latest.

Some good news (for the economy): Infosys is doubling down on its commitment to the Ocean State, announcing a plan to hire more than 1,000 new employees.

Some good news (for your kids’ sweet tooth): Halloween “must go on,” according to Governor Raimondo.

Plus: FEMA approved Rhode Island for an extra two weeks of enhanced unemployment benefits. Providence Business News has more on the fact that Rhode Island is receiving an additional $7.6 million in Community Development Block Grants from the CARES Act. And the state minimum wage is set to increase in October.

Finally: After “on-and-off discussions” over the last two decades, Care New England and Lifespan have signed a letter of intent to complete a merger. Here’s the Boston Globe with more on this major shake-up in Rhode Island’s healthcare space.

INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHTS

Construction: The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updated its COVID-19 Technical Assistance Publication. Find the latest by clicking here.

Plus: The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs sent out a long list of resources to help contractors remain in compliance with federal and local laws.

Finally: CNA put out a three-part e-Talk series focused on Risk Control. Sign up to receive a copy by clicking here.

Manufacturing: The Rhode Island Manufacturing Association is gearing up to kick off Manufacturing Week in early October. Learn more – and sign up – by clicking here.

CONTINUING OUR PIVOT INTO THE NEW NORMAL

As always, we’re on the look-out to learn how businesses across the country are navigating this crisis. Here’s what we’re reading this week.

This interactive landing page dedicated to “Tracking America’s Recovery” is endlessly fascinating. Check out the data-driven analysis on how the pandemic is impacting your job, your home, your investment, your leisure and more by clicking here.

A recent feature in the Harvard Business Review makes the interesting argument that family-friendly workplace cultures are going to prove more important than ever in the post-COVID world.

Plus: Are you having trouble focusing? Try working these five habits into your daily routine. Sick of Zoom calls? Experts say the future of remote work doesn’t have to include constant video-chatting. And… how can firms become “more resilient” in the coming years?

Finally: Between virtual interviews and remote onboarding, companies have been forced to get creative with their hiring processes. Our expert team of human resources professionals knows this challenge first-hand. Learn more about our as-a-service offerings 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.

 

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