$1 billion set aside for RI small businesses with under 20 employees

Business News

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Roughly 26,000 forgivable loans, totaling $2.7 billion, have been given to small businesses in Rhode Island, and more are on the way.

Francescos in Providence opened up in October during the height of the pandemic.

Owner Frank Schiavone said they don’t qualify for any kind of loan, but they’re making it work anyway.

As a family-owned pizza shop nestled off of Hope Street in Providence, Francescos has recipes dating back several generations, but was established while Schiavone was stuck at home during the pandemic.

“I was like, ‘I’m very bored, I’m sitting in the house making pizzas,'” Schiavone said. “So, I said ‘You know what? I can put this into a storefront and see what happens.'”

But with the pandemic, came some significant challenges.

“It was stressful not knowing every time you turned on the news week-to-week,” he said. “The pause in December really hurt.”

That’s why the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans were created, to help small businesses survive.

The R.I. Small Business Administration and Lt. Governor Dan McKee held a press conference detailing the latest revision Friday.

“Rhode Island is not going to re-open strong without supporting its small businesses,” McKee said.

The revision allows small businesses with 20 or fewer employees to apply for loans until March 9, a $1-billion pot set aside for them.

After March 9, all small businesses will be eligible once again.

But since Francescos is so new, they don’t qualify. Despite this, Schiavone said business is up, which is where it needs to stay without the help of a PPP loan.

“I mean if we just keep it coming and we stay in this direction with things opening up, things will definitely be better for us,” he said.

McKee said vaccinations are still his top priority, but helping small businesses will help the overall economy of the state.

On Monday, there will be ab online forum for Rhode Islanders with questions on the R.I. Commerce Facebook page.

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