As the nation and Rhode Island continue to struggle and make efforts to contain the coronavirus (COVID-19), it’s doing so by shutting down major institutions and events, urging people to stay at home, and putting tremendous strain on the nation’s and Rhode Island’s business communities.

Stefan Pryor, Rhode Island’s Secretary of Commerce, has reached out to businesses, outlining a series of steps that Commerce and the Department of Labor and Training are taking to help businesses and their employees during this difficult period. Among those, Pryor said, are becoming more flexible with programs like Temporary Disability Insurance and Unemployment, and seeking ways to help companies access capital, including through loan programs.

Below is Secretary Pryor’s letter to the business community.

Dear Colleagues,

We are writing to keep you apprised on the efforts that are underway regarding COVID-19. We recognize the seriousness of the issue and the widespread impact this is having on our communities and valued businesses. We are working closely with state and federal agencies to ensure the needs of the business community are being met as best as possible.

At this stage, public health is paramount. For the latest information about COVID-19, please visit the official page of the Rhode Island Department of Health. People or businesses with general questions about COVID-19 and how to follow the latest guidance, should call 401-222-8022, or if the call is outside of business hours, call 211. 

We stand ready to assist with business-related issues. If companies have questions regarding access to capital and other lending options, please call our Small Business Hotline at (401) 521-HELP or e-mail info@commerceri.com

The Department of Labor and Training stands ready to assist employees and employers who are affected or have questions. DLT is increasing the flexibility and manageability of the Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) and the Unemployment Insurance, including waiving the seven-day minimum amount of time and previously required medical certification. Affected businesses with questions on Unemployment Insurance, Paid Sick and Safe Leave, or other work-related programs should contact the DLT by emailing dlt.covid19@dlt.ri.gov or calling (401) 462-2020. 

Additionally, Commerce is working with the Small Business Administration on unlocking emergency tools at the federal level. If a business has been affected by this event, we are asking them to fill out this estimated disaster injury worksheet. Accurate responses to the questions below will assist in evaluating a request for an economic injury disaster declaration from the U.S. Small Business Administration. This survey can be found here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/estimated-disaster-economic-injury-worksheet 

If your business would like to provide a charitable donation, please reach out to us at info@commerceri.com for more information. 

For more updated information on our services and efforts, please visit our website at http://commerceri.com/covid-19.  

 Best regards during this challenging time.
Sincerely,

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Frank Prosnitz brings to WhatsUpNewp several years in journalism, including 10 as editor of the Providence (RI) Business News and 14 years as a reporter and bureau manager at the Providence (RI) Journal. Prosnitz began his journalism career as a sportswriter at the Asbury Park (NJ) Press, moving to The News Tribune (Woodbridge, NJ), before joining the Providence Journal. Prosnitz hosts the Morning Show on WLBQ radio (Westerly), 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday, and It’s Your Business, also on WBLQ, Monday and Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Prosnitz has twice won Best in Business Awards from the national Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW), twice was named Media Advocate of the Year by the Small Business Administration, won an investigative reporter’s award from the New England Press Association, and newswriting award from the Rhode Island Press Association.