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Financial lifeline offered to businesses affected by gas outage

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NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — Businesses unable to open during the week-long natural gas outage on Aquidneck Island will get some help getting back on their feet.

Service was shut off last week to thousands of National Grid customers after a loss of pressure due to a decrease in supply from the transmission lines. It took several days for hundreds of workers to shut down each gas meter before they were able to begin the relighting process.

The gas is back on at Salvation Cafe, but the restaurant on Broadway remains closed.

“Every dollar in the winter is so important, so it’s been tough,” said owner Susan Lamond.

Lamond said the gas emergency cost her about $30,000 in revenue.

“At this point, I’m just thinking July, July, July! Just try to get through to the season and try not to go down in the meantime,” she said.

For small businesses like Salvation Cafe, affected directly by the gas shutoff, the state is offering $1.45 million dollars in emergency loans up to $25,000 dollars per business. Insurance claims or National Grid claims can be used as collateral.

“This is meant to be kind of a bridge loan so you can stay in business while you wait for those reimbursements,” Governor Gina Raimondo said during a news conference Monday morning.

Separately, National Grid announced $500,000 in grants for small businesses where the gas was shut off. The grants are need-based, up to $5,000 per business.

“We don’t intend to take the place of customers’ insurance providers, so it’s important that folks pursue those channels to make their claims, but this program is really built to fill the gap,” explained Terry Sobolewski, National Grid Chief Customer Officer.

“At this point in time, we still collectively, both ourselves and the administration aren’t really crystal clear on what the combined need of the community is,” Sobolewski added. “We’ve  set up some initial parameters but will continue  to adjust those as we understand what kind of needs are out there.”

RI Emergency Loan Program

WHO QUALIFIES: Any business on Aquidneck Island that has been impacted by the recent gas incident is eligible to apply and may qualify for the funds. Credible insurance claims and/or claims in accordance with National Grid’s business reimbursement policies for affected businesses will be required as collateral for these emergency loans.

TERMS/RATES: this fund is being offered with no payments and no interest for the first 6 months. For businesses that extend beyond a 6-month period, a 4% rate will apply. Businesses can apply for up to $25,000 with no minimum.

EXPEDITED APPLICATION PROCESS: The fund is designed to enable expedited application and approval, with the goal of getting applications processed within two business days whenever possible.

HOW TO APPLY: Rhode Island Commerce Corporation staff will be onsite at the Newport Visitor’s Center beginning Tuesday to meet with businesses and process loans. Business can also call the Corporation’s Small Business Hotline at (401) 521-HELP.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES: The Commerce Corporation’s seven existing small business lenders welcome applications to our non-emergency small business-friendly loan programs. 

National Grid Small Business Assistance Program

National Grid also announced details of a program designed to help small businesses affected by the outage.

The utility announced a commitment to fund $500,000 in need-based grants administered in partnership with Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Rhode Island.

National Grid Rhode Island President Tim Horan said the grants will be nimble and an online application will allow for quick signup.

He said the grant application will be available sometime this week, with the first payments to be issued next week.

“Local businesses are critical to any economy and we know this has been a challenge for the homeowners and the businesses alike,” Horan said.

More information will be posted on LISC’s website in the coming days.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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