And she announces a plan to aid small businesses
By Hope McKinney
Data: The R.I. Department of Health said there were 52 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in Rhode Island to 17,640. There were 2 new deaths on Wednesday. The total number of deaths is 987. The number of confirmed cases in East Greenwich has gone up from 88 to 95 (the number was last updated on July 3). Find all the most recent data at the DOH data hub HERE.
At Gov. Gina Raimondo’s press conference Wednesday afternoon, she firmly urged residents to follow social distancing guidelines after last weekend’s increased crowding at beaches and an increase this week in the test positive rate for those between the ages 20 and 29.
She said that the statewide test positive rate is just under 2 percent, but the test positive rate among people ages 20 to 29 is 7 percent.
“If you let your guard down, more Rhode Islanders will die,” she said. “More businesses will go out of business. Our children will have a hard time getting back to school. We’re going to see a surge. That is a fact.”
There were particular issues with compliance at Misquamicut State Beach and Scarborough state beaches, causing Raimondo to reduce parking capacity at those beaches to 25 percent, starting tomorrow. She said residents between the ages 20 and 29 largely seem to be the main group going against the guidelines, although statistics show people in their 30s are also are just behind people in their 20s as the group with the highest test-positive rate.
For those planning to visit Misquamicut or Scarborough, Raimondo advised them to show up in small groups and only stay for a couple hours or to change their plans all together so they aren’t disappointed when they arrive because the parking lot is at capacity.
Enforcement will also be amped up around these beaches and their surrounding areas, even around restaurants and concession stands. Workers will be walking around to make sure there’s proper social distancing and mask-wearing. Masks will also begin to be passed out. Raimondo said there will likely be increased fines for illegal parking around beaches as well.
In the last few days, there was a slight uptick in cases and hospitalizations with 102 new cases yesterday. This is the first time there’s been more than 100 cases in a single day since June 10.
“It’s not cause for panic at all,” Raimondo said. “But it’s cause to pause. Are we doing everything we can to follow the rules?”
To help small businesses, Raimondo said additional money from COVID relief funds will be pushed out to those who are struggling the most – including restaurants, caterers, businesses that have 20 or fewer employees and have lost a significant portion of revenue in the past few months. Businesses have been clamoring for state aid in recent weeks.
Aside from the $200 million of federal stimulus money to provide immediate relief, an additional $100 million will be used to directly support the state’s small businesses. Of that total, $50 million will be made available in the first round of funding to provide direct cash assistance to businesses with reopening expenses, such as plexiglass, cleaning supplies, touchless pay technology, as well as the fixed costs of rent and utilities. Of these funds, 20 percent will be set aside for minority-owned businesses. If the $100 million goes quickly, Raimondo said it will be replenished.
Grants will be set aside for up to $15,000 for each eligible state business impacted by the crisis. The application for this funding will be available in the next couple weeks. The framework and details of this are online at www.CommerceRI.com.
“Our goal is twofold,” Raimondo said. “Get the money on the street into your pocket as fast as possible, but also to do it right.”
In coming weeks, $26 million additional stimulus dollars will be available for critical business support services, including nonprofit grants, technical assistance to businesses, and a “repositioning” program to help small businesses restructure their business models.
Another $20 million of CARES Act funding will go towards small businesses from the Small Business Development Fund, which the General Assembly authorized during the last legislative session. Raimondo said her administration is also working with the federal Economic Development Administration to pursue an additional $5 million for the state’s tourism industry. She said the Commerce team has also been working with stakeholders in the minority business community to provide initiatives to support entrepreneurs and emerging enterprises by people of color.
“As Rhode Island claws its way out of this crisis, let’s aim to do better than the old normal,” she said. “Let’s be more innovative, more equal, more resilient and more committed to every single Rhode Islander.”
Dr. Alexander-Scott announced a second round of COVID-19 serology testing, which looks for antibodies in blood which are produced in response to the presence of a virus. This test will first be available to those in certain high-contact professions and workers in fields that have been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response – first responders (police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical services personnel), National Guard members, Department of Health staff, correctional facility workers, and hospital and nursing home staff. Tests can be scheduled online at www.firstserosurveyri.com. They are entirely voluntary and confidential.
Raimondo also recognized the men and women in the National Guard who have been vital in the state’s response to the virus. Federal reimbursement for use of the National Guard is supposed to expire at the end of August. However, the governor said she had joined 39 other states yesterday in sending a letter to President Donald Trump, asking for an extension of full federal funding for the guard through the end of the year. If this doesn’t happen, she said contingency plans are in place that will use money from the COVID Relief Fund to hire additional people to do the work the guard has been doing.
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