McKee, R.I. Commerce Corp. providing grants to hard-hit hospitality, tourism and event businesses

GOV. DANIEL J. MCKEE and the R.I. Commerce Corp. announced Wednesday an $8 million grant program to assist businesses and organizations in the hospitality, tourism, and event sectors. The program will be funded via American Rescue Plan Act funding, with grants from $12,500 up to $250,000 available to eligible businesses. Pictured, McKee chats with Gerry Fournier, vice president of operations at Igus Inc., on Feb. 22 at the company's East Providence-based facility./PBN PHOTO/CASSIUS SHUMAN

PROVIDENCE – On the anniversary of his year in office, Gov. Daniel J. McKee and the R.I. Commerce Corp. announced Wednesday an $8 million grant program to assist businesses and organizations in the hospitality, tourism, and event sectors.

The effort, funded through the $119 million in legislature approved American Rescue Plan Act funding, and part of McKee’s R.I. rebounds program, will provide up to $250,000 in grants for hotels, travel/tour businesses and art organizations and a flat grant of $12,500 for restaurants and event businesses.

The funding is targeted for businesses that incurred significant financial loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The grant program will provide direct financial relief to restaurants, event related organizations, and valet operators; hotels, travel agents, tour guides/operators; and arts and culture organizations.

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“Our administration is committed to supporting local businesses and ensuring Rhode Island’s vibrant hospitality, tourism, and event sectors rebound from the pandemic with strength,” said McKee. “I’m grateful to the Speaker, Senate President and members of the General Assembly for passing our R.I. Rebounds proposal which allows us to deliver this crucial funding.”

“Rhode Island’s economic recovery is strong overall, but – as is true across the country – it’s an uneven recovery,” said Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor. “The hospitality, tourism, and event sectors have experienced the greatest impacts in the pandemic era. This grant program will help businesses in these sectors make it through to the other side of the COVID downturn.”

Dale J. Venturini, CEO and president of the R.I. Hospitality Association, said that her organization has been working with the R.I. Commerce Corp. on the rollout of this program with support and input from several of its members.

“We look forward to its launch, which will provide financial assistance to hospitality and tourism businesses that have been heavily impacted by the pandemic,” she said.

Kristen Adamo, CEO and president of the Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau, said that Providence has suffered due to the pandemic. Hotels lost 70% of their revenue from 2019 to 2020 and 35% of their revenue from 19 to 21.

“It is such a relief to be here talking about good news in the hospitality industry,” she said. “This funding is very much needed. It’s going to help struggling restaurants and arts organizations survive. It will help Providence hotels, many of which are locally owned by the way, shore up their finances so they can hire more workers. And, it is thoughtful enough to include those segments of our industry that haven’t received a lot of attention, like event planners and tour operators.”

An eligibility requirement for the grant funding includes demonstration of at least a 35% revenue loss, comparing 2021 to 2019. The program was designed using tax and industry data with the goal of supporting the hard-hit tourism, hospitality, and event industries.

Information about when applications will be accepted will be posted next week. R.I. Commerce Corp. will be hosting an initial webinar for interested businesses and organizations on their Facebook page on March 9.

For those unable to attend the live webinar, the video will also be available on the agency’s website and YouTube channel.

More information about eligibility requirements and how businesses can prepare to apply, as well as information regarding upcoming webinars can be found on the Rhode Island Commerce website.

Cassius Shuman is a PBN staff writer. Contact him at You may also follow him on Twitter @CassiusShuman.

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