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May 8 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 8, here are the latest updates leaders in Rhode Island’s business community need to know.

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Insights  <  May 8 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 8, 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 8, 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

Did you qualify for a Paycheck Protection Program loan? Expect to be audited.

The federally funded Paycheck Protection Program has been one of the most in-demand financial relief programs in recent memory. The federal government has pumped more than $660 billion into this initiative in order to help small businesses navigate the economic insecurity brought on by the COVID-19 public health crisis. Here in Rhode Island, nearly $2 billion in PPP funding has been disbursed across nearly 13,000 small businesses.

First things first: If you’re a business owner, and you think you qualify for PPP relief, you may still have an opportunity to take advantage of this program. However, more than half of the second round of federal funding for the PPP has already been exhausted, so it’s important that you move quickly. Our best advice is to contact your financial institution as soon as possible and get your application into the queue.

If you’ve already received PPP relief, please be aware: Meticulous, accurate record-keeping has never been more important. The U.S. Treasury recently said just about every business that receives relief through the PPP should expect to be audited before the loans are officially forgiven. You’ll need to have a sizable pile of paperwork on hand in order to successfully make it through this audit process, so start planning now.

Our advice: Review the U.S. Treasury’s latest FAQ document (or, for more information, take a look at our latest update). Most importantly, contact your financial advisor as soon as possible to finalize next steps.

Before we move on to the latest Rhode Island news, here is a roundup of additional resources related to the PPP:

THE LATEST – COVID-19 IN RHODE ISLAND

Let’s start with the latest numbers…

As of Thursday evening, 10,530 Rhode Islanders had tested positive for COVID-19. Three-hundred and eighteen patients were in the hospital, and 388 residents had unfortunately passed away due to the virus.

The good news: The 7-day averages of positive cases, hospitalizations and fatalities all seem to have reached a plateau. Time will tell if that trend continues, but – in the immediate – the trend has given state officials enough reassurance to officially start a statewide “reopening” process.

Let’s talk about that process.

Phase 1 of Reopening Rhode Island plan to begin this weekend

Governor Raimondo confirmed on Thursday that Rhode Island will officially enter “Phase 1” of its economic reopening process on Saturday, May 9.

What does this mean? Well, it depends on who you ask.

For most people, Phase 1 won’t bring about too many noticeable changes. The statewide stay-at-home order will be lifted as of Saturday, but public gatherings will still be limited to five people or less; workers will still be encouraged to work from home if they can; and many of the restrictions we’ve grown accustomed to over the last eight weeks will remain in place.

In other words, we won’t be going out for a sit-down dinner or taking a three-day weekend in Florida (or, for that matter, shopping in Seekonk) any time soon.

Non-essential retail business can open… with strict guidelines

Some good news for some business owners: “Non-essential” retailers will be permitted to reopen during Phase 1 of Rhode Island’s reopening process, albeit with very rigid social distancing restrictions.

These non-essential retailers – think: clothing stores, bookstores, hardware shops and the like – can reopen, but they are being asked to limit their capacity to one customer at a time per 300 square feet of available space. The typical rules still apply for businesses that choose to open during Phase 1: Customers will need to wear facemasks and stay six feet apart, and business owners will be expected to implement strict sanitizing policies.

As for once-normal amenities like dressing rooms, food courts or in-store sampling? These perks aren’t explicitly banned, but – if you’re asking us for our opinion – we’d recommend holding off for now.

We all want to get back into the office. But most will have to wait

Offices are technically permitted to reopen during Phase 1 of this process, but Rhode Island’s health experts are urging anybody who can work remotely will continue to do so – at least for the next two weeks.

This recommendation may be hard to swallow for a lot of businesses who have spent the last eight-plus weeks working from home. If you’re having a hard time managing the remote-work world, here are a handful of resources from Inc.com that might help ease the stress:

One more remote-work resource: You’ve likely heard of “Zoombombing” by now. blumshapiro partner and cyber security expert Heather Bearfield explained how to keep yourself safe over video chat. Read her tips by clicking here.

But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start planning ahead

Even though you might be still be working from home for the next few weeks, don’t throw away your ironing board or commit to replacing your wardrobe with new sweatpants quite yet. Offices will reopen, and business owners need to start thinking about what this “new normal” will look like.

State leaders haven’t issued official guidance on reopening offices quite yet, but it’s very possible that this process may include precautionary measures like temperature checks, hand-washing rules, and temporary closures of shared spaces like conference rooms, kitchens or break rooms.

While you’re thinking about your office reopening plan, you might also be wondering whether you can finally a get a haircut during Phase 1.

The short answer: Probably not. Salons and barber shops – along with other “high-touch” businesses like tattoo parlors, spas and massage therapy – won’t be reopened in Phase 1. Call your stylist or your barber and make an appointment for Phase 2. Otherwise, grab a pair of scissors, close your eyes and hope for the best.

THE LATEST – THE IMPACT ON RHODE ISLAND’S BUDGET

Rhode Island leaders bracing for significant budget shortfall

Federal stimulus money will help, but Rhode Island is still looking at a budget shortfall of up to nearly $600 million, according to multiple reports. Providence Business News broke down various prognoses from economic experts. Read more by clicking here.

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 – CONSTRUCTION

We mentioned this last week, but it’s good news worth repeating: Most major construction projects are moving along as scheduled, according to the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council.

While we’re talking about the construction industry, here are a few upcoming webinars from the Associated Builders & Contractors that may prove helpful:

INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT – FOOD & BEVERAGE AND HOSPITALITY

The bad news: Dine-in service at Rhode Island’s restaurants, bars and cafes will continue to be prohibited during Phase 1 of our reopening.

The good news: You might be able to open outdoor options sometime soon. Stay tuned for the latest updates and see below for a few additional resources related to the food & beverage and hospitality industries.

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

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:

INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT – MANUFACTURING

The Rhode Island Manufacturers Association has launched a new website to help its members procure and distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) to their employees. Learn more by clicking here.

Speaking of manufacturing, kudos to Honeywell, which transformed its Smithfield-based factory to make N95 face masks for first responders across the country. Between its facilities in Rhode Island and Arizona, the company expects to manufacture more than 20 million masks per month. Providence Business News has more on this story.

FINANCIAL RELIEF PROGRAMS FOR BUSINESSES

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.

THE WEEK AHEAD – UPCOMING WEBINARS, TRAININGS AND MORE

SCORE Rhode Island continues training series

SCORE Rhode Island is continuing to host informational webinars that may be helpful for the business community. Their ongoing list of webinars can be found on their website by clicking here.

Coming up in the next few weeks:

Bryant University teaming up with Rhode Island Foundation

Bryant University leaders will join Rhode Island Foundation President & CEO Neil D. Steinberg to host a panel discussion that aims to take a look at how Rhode Island can move forward and recover from the COVID-19 crisis.

The conversation will air on Monday, May 11 at 10 a.m. You can learn more, and register, by clicking 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.

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 Project Sweet Peas, a local nonprofit organization that donated iPads to Women & Infants Hospital to allow parents to see and talk to their babies during virtual visits. Providence Business News has the full story.

Thank you to Lifespan and Care New England, who have joined forces to provide mental health support to healthcare workers across the state.

Thank you to Rhode Island state Rep. Alex Marszalkowski, who donated a whole bunch of tulips to nurses at Kent Hospital on National Nurses Day.

Finally, thank you to the Rhode Island Foundation and United Way, whose COVID-19 Response Fund has granted a total of $7.2 million to support more than 180 nonprofit organizations since the beginning of the pandemic.

 

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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