Newport, Middletown prepare to make taking it outside a little easier for businesses
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NEWPORT — For local businesses and organizations hard-hit by the pandemic, survival for many meant moving operations outside.
As the weather cools, anxieties have seemingly mounted. But 41 “intermediary organizations” across the state — including multiple Newport County organizations — are slated to benefit from a statewide grant program totaling over $3 million, Rhode Island Commerce announced in a press release Thursday.
Newport applied for a $146,695 grant as part of the “Take it Outside” initiative, a statewide program to encourage and increase outdoor activities in an effort to reduce the transmission rate of COVID-19.
The funds would support “local restaurants, retail establishments and other organizations,” according to the city’s grant application.
The city, in its application, said it would be “collaborating” with Middletown, since that town submitted a “mirror proposal.” The city dubbed the collaboration “Take it Outside: Aquidneck Island.”
Middletown applied for a similar dollar amount as Newport. Rhode Island Commerce announced Thursday that both Middletown and Newport will each receive up to $75,000.
Newport City Manager Joe Nicholson said Wednesday the maximum grant amount the city was able to apply for was $150,000.
In its request, Newport figured tents, a heater, labor costs and PPE (personal protective equipment) into the total.
Nicholson said he visited local businesses to gauge interest in the grant program. “Money is the issue here,” he said during Wednesday’s City Council meeting. “It’s how far we can stretch it. And we want to be fair.”
In a prepared statement Thursday after the award was announced, Nicholson said, “This is a significant award and with the weather getting colder, couldn’t come at a better time. Our goal is to work closely and quickly with our business community in order to put them in a position where they can succeed over the coming months even while contending with the incredible challenges presented by the ongoing COVID19 outbreak.”
Businesses interested in applying for assistance through the city’s “Take it Outside” grant award are asked to contact the city manager’s office at (401) 845-5429, or via email at CityManager@CityofNewport.com or Patricia Reynolds, director of planning and economic development, at (401) 845-5450 or PReynolds@CityofNewport.com.
Discover Newport was awarded up to $60,000 to aid restaurants as temperatures drop, according to Rhode Island Commerce.
For this first round, here are the other local beneficiaries, according to a press release from Rhode Island Commerce. Dollar amounts are “up to”:
Island Moving Company, $15,000
The Island Moving Company sought funding to create outdoor events where movies and performances may be conducted. They will also allow for outdoor food vendors to operate at these events.
Town of Jamestown, $40,000
The Town of Jamestown sought funding to equip a parking lot in the center of their town with the necessary infrastructure for restaurants to serve outdoors in colder weather and purchase goods to distribute to businesses that would allow them to conduct their operations outdoors.
Portsmouth Schools, $55,000
The Portsmouth School system sought funding to procure goods that enable schools within the district to conduct lessons and activities outdoors.
Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce, $75,000
The Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce sought funding to create an outdoor job fair, expand Innovate Newport’s outdoor capacity and procure goods to be distributed to businesses to expand their outdoor capacity.
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“We’re very excited with the news, which is going to help our local businesses directly,” Middletown Town Administrator Shawn Brown said in a prepared statement. “We’re working out the details now and we want to get this up and running as soon as possible following the generous assistance from the state.”
Gov. Gina Raimondo announced on Sept. 16 that the “Take it Outside” initiative would make available $1 million in grants to help businesses and organizations sustain outdoor operations.
Raimondo announced a $4 million expansion of the grant program during a Sept. 30 press conference, so additional funds may become available for some municipalities.
“It’s for any entity which needs help taking the business outside,” Raimondo said during her Sept. 30 press conference. “Which we believe is pretty much any business.”
Rhode Island Commerce is currently accepting applications for the second round of funding for the grant program. The deadline for the second round of applications is October 8. More information can be found on www.takeitoutsideRI.com.