PROVIDENCE – Small businesses that are struggling to reopen with new health and safety regulations can get assistance in procuring essential items in the near future. Governor Gina Raimondo announced today that starting next week, small businesses with 50 or fewer employees can access one month’s supply of masks and disinfectant solution from the state, due to a new collaboration with various chambers of commerce across Rhode Island. The only cost to small businesses in exchange for the personal protective equipment (PPE) and disinfectant will be proof that the business has completed its COVID-19 control plan. Businesses can also apply for laptops to help employees work from home due to a donation of new computers to the state from Microsoft.
“If you’re a small business, a small retailer, and you want to get back into the business of reopening, it’s confusing, step one: go to reopeningri.com, and look at the reopening template,” said Raimondo Wednesday. “We want to hold your hand and walk you through it to show what’s expected of you. Then, if this could help you out, if you need a hand to get an initial shipment of surgical masks or disinfectant, you can go ahead and sign up for that.”
“This is meant to be about a month’s [supply],” Raimondo continued. “It’s a starter installation just to give you a hand as you begin to learn how to operate in this new normal.”
About 500,000 masks will be available for distribution along with vouchers for the purchase of disinfectant solution at any Ocean State Job Lot in Rhode Island, according to the governor.
When Raimondo allowed Rhode Island’s stay-at-home order to expire on Saturday, officially beginning the first phase of the state’s reopening of non-essential retail, health regulations for businesses to reopen safely, such as requiring employees to wear masks and frequent sanitation of work areas, were also established by the governor in collaboration with the Rhode Island Department of Health. The mask and disinfectant solution distribution is in an effort to help small businesses meet those new standards. Small businesses can learn more about procuring the supplies at commerceri.com. To learn more about the COVID-19 control plan, please visit reopeningri.com.
“Throughout this crisis, I have tried, every day, to listen to people and meet people where they are and just try to respond to practical, every-day demands, whether that’s fixing the way we deliver unemployment insurance, whether that’s setting up a hotline at the commerce department so there’s a single place to call,” said Raimondo. “[The mask and disinfectant solution distribution] is for our smallest businesses, frankly the ones who have been hit the hardest, and the ones that are struggling the most in getting their hands on the supplies they need to reopen safely with the new guidelines.”
Raimondo also announced that a “generous donation” from Microsoft had allowed the state to offer laptops for small businesses, college students and public school districts. About 500 laptops will be available to small businesses with 25 or fewer employees in the interest of helping employees work from home during the COVID-19 crisis, and additional 500 will be available to students at Rhode Island College, other colleges and universities and K-12 in districts where there is a need.
“We’ve been hearing from small businesses – they want to sell more online, they want to enable folks to work from home, they need a hand with the equipment, the software and the technical know-how,” said Raimondo. “We hope the availability of these 500 laptops will give you a hand.”
Small businesses will need to apply for the laptops at commerceri.com. Applications are available in both English and Spanish and the deadline to apply is May 26.