PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Qualifying Rhode Island small businesses that can show they’ve been harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic will be able to apply for state relief grants worth up to $5,000 starting on Tuesday, Gov. Dan McKee’s office announced.

The governor and lawmakers authorized $12.5 million to fund the new initiative — dubbed the “Rhode Island Rebounds Small Business Grant Program” — as part of a bill enacted earlier this month that begins spending Rhode Island’s $1.1 billion allocation under the federal American Rescue Plan Act.

“Small businesses continue to face challenges as they work to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” McKee said in a statement announcing the program. “Tourism and hospitality businesses – as well as retail and personal service businesses that rely upon foot traffic – continue to face hardships.”

Grants will range from $2,500 to $5,000 per business. To be eligible, an enterprise must be a for-profit company and must have less than $1 million in gross sales for 2020 or 2021, and must show a direct revenue loss due to the pandemic.

Various exclusions apply, with detailed information listed at

The R.I. Commerce Corp. will begin accepting applications for the grants for two weeks starting on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. The agency will hold a webinar with information about eligibility and application guidelines on Monday at 3:30 p.m. on its Facebook page.

If demand for the grants is higher than the amount of money available, state officials said they will prioritize providing awards to businesses that have not previously received pandemic-related relief from the state, as well as to “very small” companies and to minority- or women-owned business enterprises.

The $119 million American Rescue Plan spending bill that funds the new grants also authorizes multiple other relief programs that are not yet up and running, including an $8 million program that will provide direct payments specifically to companies in the tourism, hospitality and events industries.

This is the second grant program for small businesses launched by the McKee administration using federal relief money since the new governor took office last March.

The first program — called the Small Business Relief Grant Program — opened applications last April and provided grants of $5,000 each to more than 3,700 businesses, according to the administration. That program utilized about $18 million in remaining funding from a different pot of federal money, the $1.25 billion that Congress allocated to Rhode Island in 2020 under the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund.

Ted Nesi ( is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook