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May 1 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, May 1, here are the latest updates leaders in Rhode Island’s business community need to know.

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Insights  <  May 1 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, May 1, 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, May 1, here are the latest updates leaders in Rhode Island’s business community need to know. To view last weeks updates, click here

THE LATEST – FEDERAL RELIEF PROGRAMS

The federal Paycheck Protection Program has been replenished.

Before we get into Rhode Island specifics, let’s start with the federally funded Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

Last week, after the program’s initial round of $350 billion in funding ran dry, the federal government pumped another $310 billion into this financial relief package. Those dollars are currently being disbursed to small businesses across the country, although financial institutions agree there is a developing “bottleneck” of new applications.

Rhode Island businesses, as of Friday, May 1, had received close to $2 billion in PPP funding – and several applications were still in the queue with local banks and credit unions. The PPP loan is one of the most in-demand financial relief initiatives in recent memory. For more Rhode Island-specific information on how to apply for a PPP loan, click here.

We urge business owners to contact your financial advisors as soon as possible to discuss the application process and develop a plan that works for you. In the meantime, here are a few resources that will provide additional information on the federal Paycheck Protection Program:

While we’re here: If you’re a local manufacturer, remember to fill out this survey related to the PPP from the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association.

If you’re a big business taking out a small business loan, the feds will be calling soon

First it was Shake Shack, and then it was the Los Angeles Lakers. Since the PPP was activated, there has been a great deal of scrutiny on both the federal government and the Small Business Administration as to what exactly makes a business “small.”

Earlier this week, the U.S. Treasury announced that any business that requests or receives more than $2 million through the Paycheck Protection Program will be subject to a full audit to ensure their eligibility. Read more via CNBC by clicking here.

THE LATEST – COVID-19 IN RHODE ISLAND

COVID-19 caseload continues to rise.

Let’s start with the latest numbers: As of Thursday evening, 8,621 Rhode Islanders had tested positive for COVID-19. Three-hundred and thirty-nine patients were in the hospital, and 266 residents had passed away due to the virus.

Public health experts in Rhode Island believe the peak in statewide positive cases and hospitalizations is still yet to come; however, it’s important to note that the same experts also note that they are not surprised by Rhode Island’s current pace. Leaders still believe we have taken the necessary precautions to “get ahead” of this virus, and that’s giving them confidence to start laying the groundwork for a plan to slowly but surely reopen the state’s economy.

Let’s talk about that plan.

Reopening Rhode Island’s economy.

The governor’s office last week unveiled the framework of a plan to reopen Rhode Island’s economy. The plan is split into multiple phases, and it is presented in an on-brand nautical theme (after all, we are The Ocean State). Right now, we’re weathering the storm. The next step will be testing the water; then, navigating our way and picking up speed. And eventually, the plan concludes, we’ll land.

The state says it’s still too early to attach any dates to this comprehensive plan, but here’s the upshot: It’s going to be a process. All signs are pointing toward entering Phase 1 (testing the water) once the existing stay-at-home executive order expires on May 9, but it is unclear what that early phase will look like for Rhode Island businesses.

In the meantime, until May 8, all of the governor’s executive orders related to social distancing and business closures remain in place. That means we’re still wearing cloth facemasks, and businesses still need to be keeping a close eye on their sanitation policies.

In case you’re keeping score at home, Rhode Island residents are still overwhelmingly pleased with state leaders’ performance during this crisis. According to a Bryant University poll, 81 percent of Rhode Islanders say Gov. Raimondo is doing an “excellent” or “good” job during this crisis. The only Rhode Islander more popular than the governor, according to the poll, is Rhode Island Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander Scott. Her approval rating: 86 percent.

One more tidbit: Rhode Islanders, as a reporter with the Boston Globe puts it, are “obsessed” with this virus. A survey released by researchers at Northeastern, Harvard and Rutgers University found more than two-thirds of Ocean Staters are talking about COVID-19 at least once a day.

Summer events likely canceled as state eyes slow and steady reopening.

If you were looking forward to your usual summertime activities like concerts, festivals or backyard barbecues, Governor Raimondo’s press conference on Wednesday was, to put it mildly, bleak. The state hasn’t passed any laws to make this official, but it certainly sounds as though Rhode Island won’t be hosting any large-scale summertime gatherings this year.

Iconic events like the Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals and heavily attended downtown festivals like PVD Fest have officially been canceled, and the governor made it clear that events like weddings, birthday parties or even backyard barbecues won’t be able to carry on as planned.

Obviously, from a pure human standpoint, this stinks. But what does it mean for the local business community – particularly folks in the hospitality industry that rely on the busy summer months to bring in much-needed revenue?

Our team at blumshapiro is closely monitoring the development of this plan; please contact us with any questions pertaining to your business.

The state of the state’s budget.

It goes without saying: This public health crisis is going to take a toll on Rhode Island’s budget. The state has already spent more than $150 million on its COVID-19 response, unemployment numbers continue to rise, and statewide economic experts are sounding the alarm.

The silver lining: The state’s Department of Revenue reported higher-than-expected revenue in March. Providence Business News has more on that news; find it by clicking here.

The latest on federal funds.

The future of Rhode Island’s piece of the sweeping federal stimulus package known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act is still up in the air.

The Ocean State was allocated $1.25 billion of the $2.5 trillion CARES Act that passed through Congress several weeks ago. Last week, the U.S. Treasury released a series of guidelines as to how and where state governments like Rhode Island’s could legally spend these funds. It’s worth noting that many elected leaders, including Rhode Island’s senior statesman Senator Jack Reed, publicly denounced those guidelines.

This week, Governor Raimondo communicated that she plans to allocate every one of her federal dollars to respond to the COVID-19 emergency. In an interview with WPRI-12, the governor said she’ll be seeking input from the General Assembly as well as the state’s Congressional delegation as she finalizes plans to allocate these funds.

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

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.

INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT – FOOD & BEVERAGE AND HOSPITALITY

The food & beverage industry – from restaurants to coffee shops to craft breweries and everything in between – has been hit hard by this crisis. Restaurants, bars and cafes are all closed (although some are doing business via online ordering), and now, even grocery stores are feeling the brunt of the impact.

Here are the latest resources & guidelines related to the food & beverage and hospitality industries. Please feel free to contact us if you have any additional questions.

While we’re on this industry spotlight: If you’re interested in supporting Rhode Island’s local hospitality, please consider donating 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. Learn more – and donate – by clicking here.

INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT – LONG-TERM HEALTHCARE

Let’s talk about the people at the frontlines of this pandemic: America’s healthcare providers.

As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), the federal government earmarked $100 billion to help hospitals and other healthcare providers continue to respond to this crisis and recover from the economic damage the crisis has created. Of this pool of relief funds, $50 billion was allocated for “general distribution to Medicare facilities and providers impacted by COVID-19.”

An initial $30 billion was distributed between April 10-17. The remaining $20 billion began being disbursed on Friday, April 24. By now, most Medicare facilities should have already received a distribution from this relief fund. If you haven’t already received your payment, you should immediately contact the CARES Provider Relief Hotline at (866) 569-3522 or send an email to HospitalCOVID19@hhs.gov.

INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT – CONSTRUCTION

Some good news: Most major construction projects are moving along as scheduled, according to the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council.

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:

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

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.

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 Granny Squibb Managing Partner Nick Carr, who used his tinkering and woodworking skills to create protective equipment for Women & Infants Hospital. Read more about Nick’s design in Providence Business News by clicking here.

Thank you to Delta Dental of Rhode Island, which launched a campaign earlier this week that’s asking Rhode Islanders to “Share a Smile.”

Thank you to Johnston teacher Cheryl Curcio, who is doing everything she can to make sure her students know how much she cares. See Chery’s story on WPRI-12 by clicking here.

And finally, thank you to the caretakers of Nibbles Woodaway (alias: The Big Blue Bug), who brought the state together this week by outfitting the iconic insect with a facemask of his very own.

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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