McKee Calls for Immediate Revision of Restore RI Small Business Grant Program Ahead of Looming Deadline for CARES Act Funds

PROVIDENCE, RI – With the December 30, 2020 deadline for states to allocate CARES Act funds fast approaching, Lt. Governor Dan McKee today sent a letter to Governor Gina Raimondo urging immediate revisions to the Restore RI Small Business Grant Program to ensure $40M in remaining funds will not expire. 

The Lt. Governor’s letter was a response to an update from Commerce Rhode Island that affirmed only $10M of the $50M designated for the Restore RI Grant Program has been awarded since the initiative was launched in July. The Lt. Governor warns that at this rate of distribution, Rhode Island is in danger of being forced to return the funds to the federal government as required under CARES Act guidelines.  

Based on dozens of meetings with small business owners, the Lt. Governor found that many small businesses are discouraged from applying for the grants because of the time-consuming application process paired with the small amount of funding they are eligible to receive. In his letter to the Governor, the Lt. Governor recommends several immediate revisions to the Restore RI Grant Program to ensure funds are swiftly and simply disbursed to small businesses before the deadline: 

  1. Increase the minimum grant amount to $5,000 and create a simplified application process for businesses that qualify for the minimum amount
  2. Increase the maximum grant amount from $15,000 to $50,000 now that the employee cap is increased from 20 to 50 
  3. For any business that was already approved, automatically double the amount of their grant or award them the new minimum amount of $5,000, whichever is greater

“The use-it or lose-it CARES Act deadline is fast approaching. Congress and the administration have not been sufficiently reliable where Rhode Island should gamble with small business funds and risk having them expire on December 30,” said Lt. Governor McKee. “We know the need of the small business community far exceeds the $50M designated for the Restore RI Grant Program. The main obstacle to distribution is the complicated, laborious application process which continues to discourage small business owners whose time and resources are already stretched thin. The state must make immediate revisions to the grant program to ensure funds are swiftly dispersed to small businesses before it’s too late.”

In an earlier letter to the Governor on September 15, Lt. Governor McKee called for an expansion and simplification of the Restore RI Grant Program. Since then, Commerce Rhode Island has addressed several of the Lt. Governor’s recommendations including allowing sole proprietors to qualify, decreasing the required revenue loss to 30% for all businesses and increasing the employee cap to 50.

Lt. Governor’s letter below: