During a daily press briefing, the governor said the U.S. Small Business Administration approved her request of a disaster declaration for the state. 

“There will now be loans available to all of Rhode Island’s small businesses for up to $2 million, for working capital, so you can continue to fund your operating expenses as we get through this,” Raimondo said.

At the same time, the governor questioned whether the state unemployment insurance fund will run out amid a spike in filings due to the coronavirus.

“Our unemployment insurance fund is getting hit pretty hard right now,” Raimondo said. “The right thing is that Congress needs to pass another stimulus to replenish that fund.”

Rhode Island received more than 6,000 unemployment claims on Monday, up from 447 last Friday. The total for the month has climbed past 9,500 claims.

Asked during the briefing how long the fund will last, Raimondo said with the current trend it might last about two months. But if the rate of claims continues to soar, it will run out sooner.

Some business owners, like Bob Burke of the Pot Au Feu restaurant in Providence, have called on the state to waive business taxes. Asked by reporters if there should be halt on rent and mortgage payments, Raimondo said no state can afford to subsidize that for a sustained period.  

In Washington, there’s bipartisan support for a multi-billion dollar relief package, perhaps through direct payments to taxpayers.

 “The question is going to be, how quickly, how big and where will the money go?” Raimondo said. “What I am urging the federal government to do is to make it very quickly, on the side of being larger than they might think and rely on states” to distribute the money.

Raimondo praised Rhode Islanders for their response to the crisis, and said the state is dong relatively well, but that things will get worse before they get better.

Other developments from the governor’s briefing:

-- The number of positive cases of coronavirus has risen to 23, up by two. Officials say the latest cases involve a man in his 50s who has traveled widely and a woman in her 40s. Both are recuperating at home.

-- Raimondo praised Rhode Islanders and their response to the coronavirus. At the same time, she said the number of positive cases is expected to rise and that things will get worse before they get better.

-- Following a request by the governor, Microsoft has agreed to make available its Office 365 software for free, for six months, to any Rhode Island business, to make telecommuting easier. Raimondo said more details can be obtained through the state technology office or by calling 401-521-HELP.

-- Raimondo is expected to make an announcement Wednesday about whether she will order schools to conduct lessons by distance learning rather than traditional classrooms next week.

-- She encouraged those who are able to contribute to a charitable response effort launched by the Rhode Island Foundation and the United Way of Rhode Island.

-- With some state workers complaining about a lack of clarity or consistency on who should be working in traditional offices, Brenna McCabe, spokeswoman for the state Department of Administration, issued this statement: “Unless they are quarantined, teleworking or discharging time, state employees are expected to report to work. State government remains open. Many state employees are responsible for providing essential basic needs and services for thousands and thousands of Rhode Islanders. We are strongly encouraging employees who are able to work from home and are working with them directly to ensure there are flexible work arrangements where appropriate, just like other businesses are currently doing. We are also reminding employees to practice social distancing and wellness etiquette in the workplace. That said, we are closely monitoring this situation as it develops and making adjustments to services – such as the lobby changes announced yesterday – as needed.”