Helpful resources

BCBSRI has compiled a list of state and federal programs to help you navigate the challenges brought on by this pandemic. For the most up-date-to information on programs and policies, you can:

For employers

Grants ranging from $500 to $50,000 are available for businesses closed or severely limited during the “pause” period of November 30 to December 13. The amount is based on business revenue. The application is intended to be simple to use. The deadline to apply is December 11. Find out more.

Restaurants, retail stores, and other organizations can find useful guidelines and resources about reopening. 

Federally guaranteed loans of 250% (or 2.5 times) of the business’s average monthly payroll costs, up to $10 million, are available to small businesses. The portion of the loan used to cover payroll costs, interest on mortgage obligations, or rent and utilities may be forgiven if borrowers maintain their payrolls during the crisis or restore their payroll afterward. The program periodically opens and closes. Employers should check with the SBA or their bank for current information.

Small businesses with an existing relationship with an SBA Express lender may access up to $25,000. These may help a business bridge the gap while waiting for other aid programs.

This loan provides up to $2 million at 3.75%. A business can use these loan proceeds for working capital and 
operating expenses, such as healthcare benefits, rent, utilities, and fixed debt payments. The forgivable advance 
“grant” portion is no longer available unless Congress provides new funds. A limitation that restricted eligible 
entities to those in the agricultural industry was lifted on June 15, 2020.

The SBA will pay for six months of principal, interest, and fees associated with a range of loans but NOT for the 
Paycheck Protection Program or Emergency Economy Injury Disaster Loans. 

Small businesses may be eligible for grants of up to $15,000. The state opened a second round of grant making on August 15. On September 16, the state expanded the types of eligible businesses to include sole proprietors with no employees and businesses with up to 50 employees as well as lowered the threshold loss of revenue from 50% to 30%. 

These small business loans range from $5,000 to $15,000, for small businesses open at least a year and with good credit. These loans are fast-tracked with money available in two weeks. Businesses not meeting the criteria may be eligible for other loan programs.

This program provides grants of up to $5,000 to businesses with five or fewer employees, in targeted communities. 

This program awards grants to the most challenged businesses, especially those in underserved communities. 

Rhode Island Commerce Corporation is providing free tech support sessions for small businesses and sole proprietors via Zoom or conference call. Help setting up work-from-home technology, online meetings, e-commerce, remote working security, or document management is provided by volunteer experts from Rhode Island’s leading tech businesses. A wide range of technical resources are also available.

The CARES Act provides funding to support “short-time compensation” programs, where employers reduce employee hours instead of laying off workers, and the employees with reduced hours receive a prorated unemployment benefit. This provision would pay 100% of the costs they incur in providing this, through December 31, 2020.

The Rhode Island WorkShare program allows employers to retain skilled workers by reducing the hours of a group of employees. Employees whose hours and wages are reduced would be eligible to receive a portion of their regular unemployment insurance benefits to compensate for the lost wages.

Under the CARES Act, numerous taxes are delayed, tax credits are advanced, and write-offs are expedited. The IRS is issuing guidance frequently; find the latest information. Federal tax benefits include:

Employee retention credit for employers subject to closure due to COVID-19 – Provides a refundable payroll tax credit for 50% of wages paid by employers to employees during the COVID-19 crisis. The credit is available to employers whose (1) operations were fully or partially suspended, due to a COVID-19-related shutdown order, or (2) gross receipts declined by more than 50% when compared to the same quarter in the prior year. The credit is based on qualified wages paid to the employee.

Delay of payment of employer payroll taxes – Allows employers and self-employed individuals to defer payment of the employer share of the Social Security tax they otherwise are responsible for paying to the federal government with respect to their employees (the 6.2% Social Security tax on employee wages).

Modifications for net operating losses, alternative minimum tax credit, business interest, and property improvement expenses – These changes allow companies to utilize losses and amend prior year returns to provide cash flow and liquidity during the COVID-19 emergency.

Advance refunding of credits – Allows employers to receive an advance tax credit from Treasury instead of having to be reimbursed.

Paid sick leave programs are required for private employers of a certain size, and payroll tax credits are available to help employers help pay for these programs. Covered employers must provide to all employees:

  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay if the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined, and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis
  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of  leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay if the employee is unable to work due to caring for an individual subject to quarantine, or care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.
  • Up to an additional 10 weeks of leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay if an employee is unable to work due to the need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reason related to COVID-19.
  • Learn more at the U.S. Department of Labor.

Payroll tax credits

Employers subject to the public health emergency leave and emergency paid sick leave requirements are eligible to receive a refundable credit against the payroll Medicare tax for sick and family leave.

For employees

For details and updates on any of these programs, please visit the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training.

Expansion of Eligibility
Individuals not traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits—self-employed, independent contractors, those with limited work history, and others—who are unable to work as a direct result of the coronavirus public health emergency are eligible for pandemic unemployment assistance.

Extension in Compensation
An additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits is available through December 31, 2020.

Immediate Coverage
Unemployment insurance is available without the traditional seven day waiting period.

Support for Furloughed/Reduced Time
Unemployment insurance may partially replace wages lost due to a reduction in work hours.

Increase in Benefits
An additional $600 per week payment was available to each recipient of unemployment insurance or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for up to four months. The initial funding ran out. The program may be replaced, although at a lower level.

For COVID-19 related claims, Department of Labor and Training will waive the seven-day minimum amount of time that claimants must be out of work to qualify for TDI/TCI benefits. For individuals under quarantine, Department of Labor and Training will waive the required medical certification, and instead will allow them to temporarily qualify via self-attestation that they were under quarantine due to COVID-19.

Disability Insurance (TDI) provides benefit payments to insured Rhode Island workers for unemployment caused by a temporary disability or injury, including quarantine.

Caregiver Insurance (TCI) provides eligible claimants up to 4 weeks of caregiver benefits to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, parent-in-law, or grandparent.

An individual can take a distribution of up to $100,000 from a retirement account without the 10% early withdrawal penalty. Any income tax liability can be paid over three years, or the person can recontribute funds back to the retirement account. Must be a coronavirus-related distribution, meaning the person: (1) is diagnosed with COVID-19; (2) has a spouse or dependent diagnosed with COVID-19; or (3) experiences adverse financial consequences as a result of being quarantined, furloughed, laid off, having work hours reduced, being unable to work due to lack of child care due to COVID-19, closing or reducing hours of a business owned or operated by the individual due to COVID-19, or other factors as determined by the Treasury Secretary.

In late spring, the federal government distributed payments of up to $1,200 to most Americans. Additional 
payments are under discussion but a final determination will depend on Congress and/or the President.


Outside of Rhode Island

In addition to the programs identified above, the following resources are available.

Businesses can find resources on the State of Massachusetts website. Massachusetts does not have a disability benefit program. Find information on unemployment.

Businesses can find resources on the State of Connecticut website. Connecticut does not have a disability benefit program. Find information on unemployment.

These resources provide an overview of certain state and federal assistance programs, available as of August 28, 2020, and is not intended as legal or tax advice. Please consult your tax, accounting, or legal advisor for more information.