New grant to aid businesses take work outside in colder months

PROVIDENCE Gov. Gina M. Raimondo announced on Wednesday $1 million in grants from the state’s stimulus to assist businesses and organizations participating in the state’s new Take it Outside initiative to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“Take it Outside,” which was announced last month, is a state-led campaign to get dining, activities, business meetings and fitness classes outdoors, including on state-owned land, as spreading the coronavirus is more likely while indoors. However, as the colder weather months close in, many are wondering how “taking it outside” will be possible. This new grant, using a portion of the state’s stimulus, Raimondo said, will help this campaign last for a few more months.

During her coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, Raimondo said that both big businesses, such as Citizens Bank and the American Automobile Association, and small businesses are doing more outdoors through this initiative.

“We want to help business associations and chambers extend the outdoor season and reduce the rate of transmission. Through the work of these partner organizations, we will support small businesses as they move some of their operations and activities outdoors,” said R.I. Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor. “In addition, we ask all Rhode Islanders to consider taking their meals, meetings, workouts, or work sessions outside.”

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R.I. Commerce Corp. is not directly handing out these grants, said Pryor during the governor’s coronavirus briefing, but Chambers of Commerce, municipalities, nonprofit organizations, downtown improvement districts, tourism regions and arts and cultural institutions will be able to apply for up to $150,000 to fund the cost of expenses associated with the expansion of business to outdoor spaces.

Some of the funds, an announcement from Commerce read, could include making use of closed streets, sidewalks and parking lots. Intermediary organizations may use the funds to cover the cost of purchasing, obtaining, installing or otherwise enabling the use of items such as chairs, tables, heat lamps, tents, outdoor Wi-Fi systems, face masks, hand sanitizer, staffing, security and insurance costs that are related to specific outdoor activities, according to the announcement.

Other eligible items could include relevant signage, bike racks, power sources and lighting.

Intermediaries can choose to directly distribute their materials to businesses and organizations or create outdoor markets, street closures or other opportunities for businesses to expand operations outside and reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The first round of proposals are due on Sept. 22 and an application will be made available here.

Alexa Gagosz is a PBN staff writer. Contact her at Gagosz@PBN.com. You may also follow her on Twitter at @AlexaGagosz.

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