Raimondo announced the new round of aid during a press conference Wednesday, days before the “holiday pause” meant to curb the growing number of COVID-19 cases. The new restrictions reduce capacity at shops and restaurants, and shut down places like bars and gyms altogether. 

“If you know you are going to struggle, you’re a bar, a gym owner, a restaurant, you are eligible,” Raimondo said. 

The grant program will be run through the state division of taxation, which will determine the grant amount based on the estimates of lost revenue. Grants will be awarded up to $50,000.

The remaining $50 million will be allocated to Rhode Islanders currently out of work. During the two week pause, everyone receiving unemployment benefits will get an extra $200 benefit both weeks.

“The next two weeks are going to be tough, I don’t want to pretend they won’t be,” Raimondo siad. “I hope this money will help to get you through the next couple of weeks.

Prior to the announcement, lawmakers and business owners publicly pushed for greater state aid to small businesses. The Rhode Island Small Business Coalition and Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee, and held a socially-distanced car rally calling for $150 million for businesses, Wednesday in Providence. 

Rhode Island’s Commerce Corporation has already given out some $29 million in grants through the Restore RI program to about 2,300 businesses in the state, according to a spokesperson. 

“I don’t second-guess the positions as far as COVID-19 goes,” said Senator Josh Miller after the new restrictions were announced last week. The Cranston Democrat runs or co-owns two restaurants. Though he was not part of the groups calling for a specific amount of money to be allocated, he said without some kind of cash flow, “businesses and their staff are not going to be able to make it work.”

Miller said the state must determine how much of a cost it can absorb, while waiting on new federal funding, adding that an effective support program might need to be at the scale of the Paycheck Protection Program, which provided more than $1 billion to Rhode Island businesses.

“Which is really complicated and difficult without federal aid, because the state cannot handle the level of aid,” Miller said.

If businesses shutter on a wide-scale, Miller says the impacts will reverberate through the state economy. 

“It means a huge gap in sales tax, food tax that goes to cities and towns, payroll tax, and a huge expense in assistance,” Miller said.

Miller has worked with his Providence restaurants, Trinity Brewhouse and the Hot Club, to find ways to increase takeout, and outdoor seating. Still, his employees have seen loss of income, forcing some to find second jobs. 

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb in Rhode Island, Miller said he doubts that the new restrictions of the “holiday pause” will be short-lived.

“We can’t realistically think it’s just going to be two weeks,” Miller said.