PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Dozens of small businesses in Rhode Island are facing financial hardship, or worse, as the state takes drastic steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
In an effort to help struggling businesses stay afloat, Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Tuesday that the Small Business Administration (SBA) granted her request for a disaster declaration, meaning low-interest loans of up to $2 million will be available for small businesses locally.
In addition, Raimondo said she contacted Microsoft and the company agreed to provide Office at no cost to Rhode Island businesses for the next six months. This includes telecommunications and web-based resources for those with employees who are working remotely. Learn more »
The declaration comes after Raimondo ordered all dine-in food and beverage service to shut down until at least March 30. She also capped crowd sizes off at 25 people or less.
The restrictions have forced some businesses to lay off most of their employees or close completely.
Mark Hayward, the director of the Small Business Administration in Rhode Island, tells Eyewitness News that the declaration applies to any small business that has been financially impacted by COVID-19 since Jan. 31.
He said the SBA is doing everything in its power to prevent these businesses from closing.
“What we’re trying to do is everything and anything we can to keep small businesses up and running, and when I say up and running, we realize that everybody is shut down, but they do have payments that have to be met and we want to make sure that we can do whatever we can,” Hayward said.
Hayward said concerned business owners are more than welcome to reach out to the SBA for guidance.
“Listen, these are times we’ve never seen before. This is extremely unusual,” Hayward said. “The opportunities will continue, we will survive, and we will do everything we can to help small businesses to come out of this.”
Here is the full text of the SBA’s announcement on Tuesday:
The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to Rhode Island small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza announced today. SBA acted under its own authority, as provided by the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act that was recently signed by the President, to declare a disaster following a request received from Gov. Gina M. Raimondo on March 16, 2020.
The disaster declaration makes SBA assistance available in the entire state of Rhode Island; and the contiguous counties of New London and Windham in Connecticut; and Bristol, Norfolk and Worcester in Massachusetts.
“SBA is strongly committed to providing the most effective and customer-focused response possible to assist Rhode Island small businesses with federal disaster loans. We will be swift in our efforts to help these small businesses recover from the financial impacts of the Coronavirus (COVID-19),” said Administrator Carranza.
SBA Customer Service Representatives will be available to answer questions about SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and explain the application process.
“Small businesses, private non-profit organizations of any size, small agricultural cooperatives and small aquaculture enterprises that have been financially impacted as a direct result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) since Jan. 31, 2020, may qualify for Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses which could have been met had the disaster not occurred,” said Carranza.
“These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. Disaster loans can provide vital economic assistance to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing,” Carranza added.
Eligibility for Economic Injury Disaster Loans is based on the financial impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The interest rate is 3.75 percent for small businesses. The interest rate for private non-profit organizations is 2.75 percent. SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years and are available to entities without the financial ability to offset the adverse impact without hardship.
“The SBA district office here in Rhode Island will do everything in its power to ensure those small businesses affected by the Coronavirus have access to Economic Injury Disaster loans,” said Mark S. Hayward, SBA District Director. “I encourage every business or nonprofit affected to visit www.SBA.gov/disaster to confirm eligibility and start the loan process. You risk nothing by applying and are not obligated to take the loan if approved, but in the instance that you do need these funds applying could be the difference between keeping your small business afloat or closing the doors.”
Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information and download applications at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or email email@example.com for more information on SBA disaster assistance. Individuals who are deaf or hard‑of‑hearing may call (800) 877-8339. Completed applications should be mailed to U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.
The deadline to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan is Dec. 17, 2020.