Gov. Gina Raimondo on Wednesday announced $100 million in relief to Rhode Island residents and businesses financially impacted by an upcoming pause on many commercial activities amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Half of those funds -- $50 million -- will go to businesses that would otherwise close or be severely impacted during the pause. Such businesses are eligible for up to $50,000 in grants based on the amount of revenue they expect to lose.
The other half will provide an additional $400 over two weeks to Rhode Islanders receiving unemployment during the pause; as well as additional support for low-income people.
Raimondo hoped the state would begin distributing relief checks within a week. Applications can be submitted starting Friday at the Division of Taxation website.
The governor also announced her administration was "dramatically increasing" the number of tests available through the state-run system so that every resident with symptoms would be able to be tested within a day.
She said every Rhode Islander would be able to get tested through the state's portal, including asymptomatic people, starting Dec. 2. To accommodate demand, the state will increase the number of rapid tests in the state.
Raimondo urged residents to comply with the pause, which takes effect Monday, saying failure to do so could worsen a surge in coronavirus cases threatening to overwhelm the health care system.
"If we don't take (the pause) seriously, our hospitals will be overwhelmed within a matter of weeks, and we will have to turn patients away," she said. "That is a horrible thing to say. It's not a threat, it's a mathematical reality."
State health officials on Tuesday reported 845 new cases of COVID-19 as well as 10 additional fatalities. The state is seeing 628 new weekly cases per 100,000 people -- the highest level since the pandemic began.
The state also saw new 313 hospitalizations last week, a figure that has tripled over the past five weeks and which Raimondo called "unsustainable."
Due to an uptick in coronavirus cases, Raimondo announced last week that beginning Monday, the state will pause for two weeks with most colleges and universities moving to virtual learning. Bar areas, recreational venues, and indoor sports facilities, gyms, and organized sports will shut down.
Under the pause period, indoor dining will be limited to 33% capacity with one household allowed per table. Retail stores can stay open under the restriction of one person per 100 square feet. Houses of worship will be limited to 25% capacity with a maximum of 125 people under the pause period, Raimondo said.
The governor said she picked the Nov. 30 date to give people time to prepare as well as for restaurants to go through their inventory.
The governor is also asking offices to close and allow employees to work remotely, if possible.
Raimondo said the two-week pause was necessary because, despite targeted restrictions that have already been put in place, coronavirus numbers continue to rise.
"Unfortunately, it's not working," Raimondo said last week. "We're in a really bad place."
The governor also warned that a full state lockdown could be imminent if people don't start following the rules.