RI small businesses urge governor to allocate CARES Act money as PPP deadline arrives


WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Tuesday is the last day small businesses can apply for a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

Nationally, more than $100 billion in PPP loans was still available as of Monday’s data.

As time runs out to acquire federal money, Justin Gontarek is hoping small businesses raise their voices.

Gontarek owns Oceanside Graphics in Warwick and since the start of the pandemic, he’s joined forces with Lt. Gov. Dan McKee’s office to help local small businesses.

“It almost seems more of a worse spot than we were when we started,” Gontarek said. “Now that [the PPP] is over, we need to obviously make a voice now and make a push for some other ways for these places to get additional funding.”

Gontarek has been able to keep his business open through the pandemic, but through working with McKee’s Small Business Organizing Panel, he knows others have not been so lucky.

“Businesses are like, ‘If we don’t start getting some money in like a couple of weeks, another month, I don’t know if we’re going to keep doors open,'” he added.

Gontarek is now helping to lead a coalition of small businesses and has started a petition in hopes of getting Gov. Gina Raimondo to allocate 10% of Rhode Island’s $1.25 billion in federal CARES Act funding to create a new grant program for small businesses.

“Let’s take some of that money, just like we did with when we needed the hospitals and PPE for everybody, and the state did a great job with all of those resources,” Gontarek said. “Now it’s time to help the small businesses.”

According to a news release from McKee’s office, states like New Hampshire, Alaska, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and others have already leveraged this clause, with some allocating up to $400 million for small businesses. A clause within the CARES act says states can allocate the funds to issue grants to small businesses affected by the pandemic.

“Rhode Island small businesses are struggling each day due to the financial impact of COVID-19. We must step up and help them survive before it is too late,” McKee said in a news release. “The CARES Act is crystal clear that states can chose to allocate funds to issue grants to help small businesses. It is time for Rhode Island to make the right choice and support our small business community in an equitable and meaningful way.”

As of June 27, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has approved nearly 17,000 PPP loans worth more than $1.87 billion for Rhode Island small businesses. Nationally, 4.8 million PPP loans have been made totaling nearly $519 billion.

“The Paycheck Protection Program will be ending today but its impact will continue to be seen for years to come,” SBA District Director Mark S. Hayward said. “These loans were instrumental in keeping these businesses afloat while keeping Rhode Islanders employed.”

“As the SBA pivots from PPP, we will continue to focus on ensuring local small businesses find success through the myriad of SBA programs and services including Economic Injury Disaster Loans, our network of expert resource partners, government contracting assistance, and more,” he continued.

The SBA has also granted 13,448 EIDL advances worth more than $43.5 million along with 6,305 EIDL loans worth nearly $384 million to Rhode Island small businesses.

According to the SBA’s 2019 Economic Profile, 98.9% of Rhode Island’s businesses are small and they make up more than half of the state’s workforce.

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