For the latest public health information about COVID-19, please visit the official page of the Rhode Island Department of Health.
Below, you’ll find answers to frequently asked questions about operating a business during the disaster. If you have additional questions, please call our Small Business Hotline at (401) 521-HELP or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frequently asked questions
Do I need to close my business?
The State of Rhode Island is not focusing on whether a business is essential or non-essential; instead, we are working to keep businesses open so long as they operate within strict parameters to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Please visit our business guidelines during COVID-19 page for information on whch businesses have been ordered to close, critical and non-critical retailers, restaurant operation guidelines, workplace best practices and more.
I want to help; whom should I contact to provide supplies?
Medical supply donations
VentilatorProject.Org has joined the Rhode Island Commerce, the University of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Department of Health, fire stations and other hospital and industry partners across the state to collect and refurbish sleep apnea (CPAP) and BiPAP machines to to serve as supplementary equipment to hospitals that are treating patients affected by COVID-19. Learn more about donating here.
If you are a researcher, supplier, or manufacturer in possession of personal protective equipment, medical or lab supplies and are willing to donate or sell them, please read details about needed supplies and submit a Medical Supply Donation Form here.
Polaris MEP, DesignxRI and Commerce are working with several Rhode Island manufacturers and designers/makers to produce readily available fabric face coverings to purchase in small and large/bulk quantities. Go to https://masksri.com/ to get more information.
Support local businesses
Gift it Forward is a new website established by Lt. Governor Daniel McKee to help Rhode Islanders support small businesses by purchasing gift cards. The site helps Rhode Islanders buy gift cards to local businesses, and includes information on how businesses can regsiter to receive cards, and provides help for corporate giving. To learn more visit rismallbusiness.org
Where can I get capital to help me get through this? SBA loans?
SBA disaster loans
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has approved “economic injury disaster loans” (EIDL) for Rhode Island and contiguous counties. These are working capital loans to help businesses and private, nonprofit organizations of all sizes meet ordinary and necessary financial obligations that cannot be met as a direct result of the disaster. They are intended to assist through the disaster recovery period. For comprehensive information about these loans and how to apply for them, see our COVID-19 Disaster Loan FAQ.
Non-SBA funding opportunities, grants and loans
Entities in Rhode Island are beginning to offer assistance to businesses through grants. We’re keeping track of them on our emergency grants and funding page here.
If we continue to operate, how can we protect our workers? What if one is sick?
For information for businesses that are remaining open during COVID-19, and information on how to keep your workers safe, visit our guidelines during COVID-19 page.
I can’t afford to pay my staff or contractors; what are my options?
Unemployment and disability insurance
The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (DLT) has waived the waiting period for COVID-related unemployment insurance claims. If employees are laid off from their position due to COVID-19, they may be eligible to apply for unemployment insurance. This includes temporary business closure or other circumstances where they are not self-quarantined, but are out of work. Employers and employees should refer to the DLT’s COVID-19 Workplace Fact Sheet.
COVID-related unemployment insurance claims are processed faster and can be more generous than temporary disability insurance (TDI) or temporary caregiver insurance (TCI) if you are out of work due to COVID-19. File a TDI/TCI claim online.
You may also contact the Rhode Island DLT with questions via email at email@example.com or phone at (401) 462-2020.
Contract (1099) workers
Contract workers may qualify as sole proprietors for SBA economic injury disaster loans. For details and application information, see our COVID-19 Disaster Loan FAQ. If you have registered in Rhode Island to file as a S corporation, LLP or as an LLC, you should have an EIN associated with the office/studio/home that you registered, and can apply for an economic injury disaster loans through the Small Business Administration like any other business.
Companies must abide by the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act with respect to family and medical leave. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees may be exempted. The U.S. Department of Labor provides guidelines here.
Are the utilities offering any relief?
National Grid has temporarily suspended collections-related activities, including service disconnections, to lessen financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. National Grid says these policies will remain in effect at least until the end of April, when they will evaluate the need. Customers looking for more information and for payment assistance programs in general can find it here.
Many internet, phone and cable providers have pledged not to terminate service and waive late fees, but it is best to contact your provider directly to learn if you are eligible and find out what they are offering.
I’m not going to be able to pay my rent or mortgage, will I be evicted?
Read our FAQ for landlords and tenants here.
Financial Institution Pledge
The district court has postponed all but emergency hearings until at least next month, so no new eviction cases will be heard. Tenants for whom a judge has already ordered an eviction prior to COVID-19 can still be forcibly removed; however, emergency hearings are being held, so someone facing eviction could ask a judge to review the situation.
Home mortgage relief
The U.S. Department of Housing and Economic Development (HUD) has announced foreclosure protections that will cover the vast majority of American homeowners for 60 days. Foreclosures will be paused for mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration or backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. You may contact your bank or lender to find out if your mortgage qualifies. The consumer financial protection bureau has created a guide covering the available options for mortgage and rental relief here.
My taxes are due; what relief is available?
The Internal Revenue Service has extended the annual filing deadline and federal income tax payments from April 15 to July 15, 2020. This deferment applies to all taxpayers, including individuals, trusts and estates, corporations and other non-corporate tax filers as well as those who pay self-employment tax. Get more information from the IRS.
While the Rhode Island Division of Taxation has said it will mirror the federal extension, it is awaiting the issuance of written guidance from the Internal Revenue Service.
Sales taxes already collected are still due. The Rhode Island Division of Taxation understands the difficulty that many businesses, including small businesses and retailers, are facing during this unprecedented crisis. Under Taxpayer Rights and Responsibilities regulation, you can request that penalties be abated if there was no negligence or intentional disregard of the law. Visit the Rhode Island Division of Taxation COVID-19 page.
I have been denied a business insurance claim for COVID-19, what federal or state help is there?
Insurance is regulated by the states so the federal government is not able to address this issue. Your coverage is determined by the language of your insurance contract and there is no statute or regulation that requires coverage for COVID-19 business loss.
If you have made a claim and received a denial letter from your insurer, you can get assistance from the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation (DBR) by filing a complaint form here.
When you file the complaint, please include a copy of the denial letter so that DBR analysts have enough information to determine the next steps.
What other help is available for my business during these tough times?
Financial Institution Pledge
Superior Court Business Recovery Plan
The Superior Court has started the Business Recovery Plan for Rhode Island businesses so they can remain operational, access new working capital, and pay debts, which you can learn more about here.
Business continuity planning
The Rhode Island Society of Certified Public Accountants has prepared a comprehensive checklist for business continuity planning, available here.
Remote online notarization
If you have documents that need to be notarized during COVID-19, while still following the social distancing regulations, Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea enabled remote online notarization to be permitted on a temporary basis. Learn more here.
More small business support
The Rhode Island Small Business Development Center at the University of Rhode Island has put together a list of COVID-19 resources for small businesses on their webpage here.
Duffy & Sweeney lawyers and paralegals are staffing a free email and call hotline for use by clients, friends and small business owners struggling without the resources to get answers to general, business legal questions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more.
SBA loan information:
Unemployment insurance and employer information:
Department of Labor and Training
Tech support during COVID-19:
Tech support help
Jobs available now:
Public health information:
Department of Health
Department of Business Regulation