RI wedding and event businesses want more help, propose phased reopening of industry


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A coalition of Rhode Island’s’ small businesses held a rally outside of where Gov. Gina Raimondo held her final coronavirus briefing of the year Tuesday.

Members of the Rhode Island Coalition of Wedding & Event Professionals (RICWEP) are demanding the governor release any leftover CARES Act funding to small businesses.

Last month, when Raimondo enacted a statewide “pause,” which was extended an additional week as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations rose, the state said affected businesses could apply for grants through the Division of Taxation.

Then, Raimondo announced an additional $100 million in funding to support those affected by the added restrictions. According to Raimondo, while $50 million would go directly to local businesses, the remaining $50 million was allocated to send an additional $200 per week to all Rhode Islanders receiving unemployment benefits during the pause.

Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor tells 12 News 2,100 businesses applied to the Pause Grant Program.

“Already, 1,500 have received checks, and that’s in excess of $35 million worth of checks,” Pryor said. “That’s on top of the $42 million-plus that’s already gone out the door through our Restore program for small businesses, and in some instances, small businesses were able to get both.”

However, the RICWEP argues the wedding and event industry has been “paused” since the onset of the pandemic in March, and will continue to be paused until a phased action plan is put into place.

A presentation provided in the news release notes the coalition expects a “12-18 month pause for our industry.” It includes a phased reopening plan for the industry, which includes goals for capacity, testing, seating spacing, and more, both for indoor and outdoor venues.

The group also provided metrics for changing phases, proposing once a percent positive threshold is met consistently for two weeks, events planned within this time period are grandfathered in with approval from the R.I. Department of Business Regulation.

Members of the RI Small Business Coalition, along with Lt. Gov. Dan McKee, were also in attendance.

The Small Business Coalition is also calling on the governor to classify gyms as an essential business and to get needed assistance for the food and beverage industry.

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