In a letter to the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation Advisors on Business Restoration, Lt. Governor Dan McKee proposed framework for a Small Business-Friendly Grant Program using a minimum of 10 percent of Rhode Island’s $1.25 billion CARES Act funds to assist small businesses across the state. The Advisors on Business Restoration met virtually on Monday evening to discuss the parameters of the state’s proposed small business grant program following the governor’s announcement that her administration will release guidelines for the program on Wednesday. “Our small business community desperately needs a meaningful program that allocates a minimum of $125 million in CARES Act funds to at least 10,000 small businesses,” said Lt. Governor Dan McKee. “As outlined clearly in the CARES Act guidelines, the federal funds are intended to help small businesses financially impacted by COVID-19; using funds to plug holes in the state budget is not permitted. It’s past time for Rhode Island to distribute these funds equitably and swiftly to the small businesses who need it most.” The Lt. Governor delivered his suggestions for a Small Business-Friendly Grant Program via e-mail to the advisors before their Monday meeting:
- The grant program should allocate at least 10 percent, $125 million, of Rhode Island’s $1.25 billion CARES Act funds to a minimum of 10,000 small businesses most severely impacted by COVID-19.
- To qualify for grants, small businesses must have 50 employees or fewer and be able to demonstrate a loss of at least 30 percent in revenue due to COVID-19.
- Qualifying small businesses could receive a grant of up to $10,000— $2,000 per employee up to 5 employees.
- Qualifying small businesses that did not qualify for the Paycheck Protection Program could receive an additional $5,000 bonus—$1,000 per employee up to 5 employees.
- Qualifying minority and women owned small businesses could receive an additional 10 percent bonus.
- Grant funds would be allocated to all 39 communities based on population for distribution to small businesses.
The Lt. Governor’s proposal is part of an advocacy effort that began in March through a series of virtual COVID-19 small business meetings hosted by the Lt. Governor’s Office. Since then, the Lt. Governor has worked closely with hundreds of small businesses to connect them with the resources they need and hear their feedback on the process of reopening and stabilizing Rhode Island’s economy. On May 26, the Lt. Governor wrote a letter to Governor Raimondo proposing a CARES Act-funded grant program to assist struggling small businesses. When the proposal went unanswered, the Lt. Governor continued to organize the small business community in support of using CARES Act funds for their intended purpose, to help small businesses survive the pandemic. Last week, the Lt. Governor partnered with the Rhode Island Small Business Coalition to launch an online petition and a grassroots effort to urge the state to use at least 10 percent of its $1.25 billion CARES Act funds to issue grants to small businesses. In a short period of time, over 3,700 people have signed the petition (rismallbusiness.org/petition) in support of the small business community. The petition was delivered to the State House last Friday.