Since the COVID-19 pandemic started escalating across the U.S. last month, Rhode Island leaders have taken many important actions to aid local businesses, communities and residents.
The state’s economic development agency, Rhode Island Commerce, runs a small business hotline that is responding within one business day to calls about all sorts of issues impacting local businesses—but mostly about funding to replace lost business.
Rhode Island Commerce’s homepage is now devoted to COVID-19 response, and five dedicated sections of the site are updated daily—sometimes multiple times a day—with resources to help businesses in the state, especially small businesses. Related sections of the site include U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, other emergency grants and funding, tech support, employee relief, and rules for operating during the disaster.
Rhode Island was the second state to be approved to receive SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), at the request of the governor. On March 17, the SBA approved Governor Gina Raimondo’s application for assistance and will offer low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital up to $2 million to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of COVID-19.
The state has launched a short-term bridge loan for restaurants and micro-businesses (those with 10 or less employees) to help them stay open until they receive their EIDLs. Funded by the Rhode Island Commerce Small Business Loan Fund and Bank Newport, this short-term bridge loan has a zero percent interest rate and recipients must pay back the loans within 180 days or when they receive their federal SBA loan, depending on whichever comes first.
Rhode Island Commerce organized a free tech support service for small business owners via 1:1 teleconference or over the phone, staffed by volunteers from some of the state’s leading tech companies. Companies volunteering include Infosys, Brave River Solutions, Vertikal6, and Venture Cafe Providence. These experts will be available to help small business owners set up equipment to work from home, shift to online meetings and help with document management and security. In its first week, the tech support service has served 100 companies.
In addition to the tech support now being offered, Rhode Island made strategic partnerships with communication and tech companies to help businesses transition to working remotely. Microsoft is providing its Office 365 E1 program free for six months to all employers in the state. That includes web-based Microsoft Office applications, resources to support telecommuting such as meetings and instant messaging, as well as remote file sharing. This offer extends to businesses of all sizes — whether they have one employee or one thousand employees.
Exclusively for Rhode Island’s frontline workers, Care.com is offering childcare at either a no cost or reduced rate to help them do their necessary work they need to do during this pandemic.
Submitted by Rhode Island Commerce.
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