Small businesses in Rhode Island who have completed their COVID-19 plan for safely reopening will soon receive face masks, cleaning supplies and laptops, Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Wednesday.
During her daily news conference, the governor said many small businesses have been reaching out and asking how they can move forward in the reopening phase.
Raimondo said the administration is doing what they can to meet the needs of small businesses and starting next week will distribute 500,000 face masks and vouchers for cleaning solutions. Vouchers for the solutions can be redeemed at Ocean State Job Lot, the governor said.
Businesses with 50 or fewer employees, including retail establishments and restaurants, must have completed their reopening plan on the Reopening RI website to qualify for the supplies.
In addition, Microsoft is donating 500 laptops to businesses with 25 or fewer employees. Another 500 laptops have been donated by Microsoft for students at area schools and colleges who are having difficulty remotely learning.
The governor said anyone still having difficulty working remotely and who is in need of a laptop can apply for one on the Rhode Island Commerce website. Applications due are due by May 26.
On Wednesday, health officials announced 18 new deaths from the novel coronavirus, bringing the death toll to 462. There were 221 additional positive cases, bringing the statewide total to 11,835.
Raimondo says the number continues to plateau but she is encouraging residents to still make doctor appointments if needed and go to the store if they feel comfortable doing so.
"I do want to encourage you to get back out there," Raimondo said while reiterating the need to follow social distancing rules. "Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep a safe distance from folks."
During her briefing on Tuesday, the governor said it was possible she might have to furlough state workers as Rhode Island deals with a projected $800 million budget deficit due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"I would love to avoid furloughs and layoffs, but I don't see how we're going to be able to do that," Raimondo said Tuesday.
Raimondo said she's trying to use as many state employees as possible while dealing with the pandemic while not adding them to the 210,000 who have filed unemployment claims.
"What we're trying to do is take state employees who are otherwise not fully engaged and put them in aid of the crisis so they can help us with our work," she said.
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Meanwhile, the state is committing $8.2 million to boost pay and help retain workers in the state's nursing homes, group homes and other congregate care facilities during the coronavirus pandemic.
The state Executive Office of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday that the program benefits more than 10,300 workers who make less than $20 per hour at 164 facilities dedicated to caring for the elderly, people with developmental disabilities, substance-use disorders and at-risk youth.