Rhode Island Unveils Strategy to Aid Small Businesses Affected by Washington Bridge Closure

In an effort to alleviate the strain on small businesses grappling with the repercussions of the Washington Bridge closure, Governor Dan McKee, alongside RI Commerce, unveiled a strategy aimed at bolstering local economies and providing crucial support to affected enterprises.

Governor McKee expressed his empathy for the struggling businesses, stating, “For the past few months, I have been talking to businesses in and around East Providence, and I know that they are hurting.” He emphasized the importance of not only offering relief but also disseminating the message that East Providence and the East Bay remain open for business.

The initiative entails directing funds towards various initiatives, including a targeted business marketing campaign and proposing strategies to the General Assembly for funding grants, special events, and other forms of business assistance.

A substantial portion of the effort involves redirecting resources, including up to $400,000 in hotel tax revenue for a targeted marketing campaign promoting local buying and dining in areas most impacted by the bridge closure. Additionally, RI Commerce plans to propose redirecting State Fiscal Recovery Funds (SFRF) to provide $300,000 for direct grants to eligible small businesses and $800,000 for technical assistance, special events, and placemaking activities.

House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi voiced support for impacted small businesses, highlighting a public hearing aimed at gathering input from affected entrepreneurs to discern necessary resources.

Senate Majority Whip Valarie J. Lawson echoed sentiments of support, emphasizing the challenges faced by East Providence businesses and expressing gratitude for the assistance package, particularly highlighting the provision of state grants to alleviate financial burdens.

RI Commerce’s plans also include allocating up to $1 million from the existing Main Streets RI Streetscape Improvement Fund for signage, beautification, and infrastructure enhancements in impacted areas to stimulate economic activity.

Secretary of Commerce Liz Tanner emphasized the critical role of small businesses in Rhode Island’s economy and pledged collaboration with Governor McKee and the General Assembly to ensure sustained support for affected enterprises.

The Administration remains vigilant, considering potential redirection of additional funds based on the outcome of first-quarter tax data to further aid impacted businesses in navigating through these challenging times.




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