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Members of the newly formed Rhode Island Small Business Coalition were joined today by Lt. Governor Dan McKee to deliver a petition with over 3,400 signatures urging Governor Gina Raimondo to allocate a minimum of 10 percent of Rhode Island’s $1.25 billion federal CARES Act funds to issue grants to small businesses that have been most severely impacted by COVID-19.

Lt. Governor McKee and a group of small business owners launched the online petition last week. On Tuesday, the small business owners formally announced the creation of the coalition and a grassroots effort to encourage elected officials and all Rhode Islanders to support the small business community by signing the petition at rismallbusiness.org/petition.

The delivery of the petition was expedited by the governor’s announcement on Wednesday that her administration is now crafting a plan for a small business grant program. In response, members of the coalition included a letter with the petition offering to provide the governor with small business representatives from a wide variety of industries to work with the administration as they establish guidelines for the grant program. The coalition also offered to work through Lt. Governor Dan McKee to communicate their ideas and feedback to the administration.

“Our small businesses need a lifeline and they need it now,” said Lt. Governor Dan McKee. “Over the past few weeks, we’ve brought hundreds of small business owners together to urge the state to create a small business grant program using federal CARES Act funds. The governor’s response this week is a step in the right direction, but the work isn’t done yet. The state’s grant program must allocate a meaningful amount of funds to the small business community—at least 10 percent the $1.25 billion. Small businesses delivered the petition today to ensure their voices are heard in the creation of the state’s grant program; their input is critical.”

“As small business owners, we are encouraged by the Governor’s response to our request for a CARES Act-funded grant program, but we know our advocacy must continue. Now, our goal is to ensure the administration hears our request for a minimum of $125 million to be allocated to the grant program and that the money is distributed to as many struggling small businesses as possible, not limited to certain industries,” said Chris Parisi, Co-Founder of the Rhode Island Small Business Coalition. “Rhode Island needs small businesses to continue the vital role they play in the fabric of our communities and the makeup of our local economy. It’s time to step up and support them in the way they deserve.”  

“The urgency of our need for a grant is unimaginable due to the extreme devastation of the hospitality industry,” said Dianne Miguel, Owner of Global Excellence Travel in Warwick. “We are a women owned business that has operated in Rhode Island for 26 years. In the last few months, our agency has seen more than a 90 percent decrease is business and we have refunded over $1 million in vacation deposits. We’ve taken drastic steps to reduce costs but without support from the state now, it may not be enough.”

“Since the start of the pandemic our business has declined 28 percent while our costs associated with doing business under the new regulations increased by 240 percent,” said Tim McCann, Owner of McT’s Tavern in Cumberland. “We complied with the state’s guidelines to keep our customers safe, but it costs money to make that happen. A grant from the state would help us recoup some of the additional costs associated with social distancing and sanitation. It should not take a petition for the governor do the right thing by the small business community, but I hope it helps our concerns be heard.”

“Our farm depends not only on individual consumers, but a significant business-to-business relationship with small mom-and-pop markets and local restaurants. We are all dependent on one another and if one of us fails, we all feel the impact,” said Tyler Young, Owner of Young Family Farm in Little Compton. “For months, small business owners have been waiting to see our state do the right thing and use the federal CARES Act money for its intended purpose, to help small businesses survive. We’ve watched as New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Alaska, Mississippi and others allocated hundreds of millions of dollars to support their small business communities. We cannot wait any longer.”

“You may see a gym, a yoga studio or a CrossFit place, but I see hopes and dreams and passions. I see blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice; that’s small business,” said Judah Boulet, Owner of No Risk CrossFit and Northern Rhode Island Strength & Conditioning. “During the pandemic, some businesses in my sector closed down for good, others took on a significant debt to stay afloat. Those of us who made it to reopening were then faced with the high costs of meeting safety guidelines issued by the state that made it impossible to generate enough revenue. Those of us still standing are fighting for our businesses every day, but without financial support from the state, more doors will close, more jobs will disappear and more livelihoods will be lost.”