R.I. Commerce Corp. grants flexibility this year for Qualified Jobs tax credits

PROVIDENCE The R.I. Commerce Corp. granted more flexibility Wednesday to companies that have qualified for state incentives tied to job creation, reducing hiring benchmarks by 50% for 2020. This will allow companies to qualify for the per-job tax credits this year, regardless of whether they reached their original hiring goals.

The lowering of the threshold this year for recipients of the Qualified Jobs tax credit will help those companies impacted by the new coronavirus, according to R.I. Commerce Corp. staff.

Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, who leads the Commerce board, said it was an appropriate step.

“The benefit is a tax break on the taxes those employees pay,” she said. “This accommodation for COVID in no way changes that basic taxpayer protection.”

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More than 30 companies have been approved by Rhode Island for these credits since 2016. A ‘handful’ of businesses had contacted R.I. Commerce staff and asked for relief from the hiring requirements this year.

Several other states, including New Jersey, Michigan and Maine, are mulling over ways to help companies impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Stefan Pryor, the state’s Commerce secretary. “Many states are figuring out ways to provide flexibility to companies that through no fault of their own are experiencing supply chain delays, revenue decreases, customer demand fluctuations, construction interruptions,” he said. “We wanted to have a fair and equitable approach.”

In other business, the R.I. Commerce board also agreed to help the R.I. Department of Labor and Training make a $500,000 payment to Virgin Pulse, a grant tied to the company’s agreement to accelerate hiring. The wellness-tech company has qualified for the grant, approved in 2017 by the Governor’s Workforce Board, but because of financial constraints the DLT does not have enough money to cover it, according to R.I. Commerce staff. The DLT can cover only half.

R.I. Commerce agreed to dip into the First Wave Closing Fund, an account it controls to attract companies, for the remaining $250,000, with the understanding that it will be reimbursed by the DLT when it has sufficient funds. The grant was among the incentives awarded to the company by Rhode Island, to entice it to move its headquarters from Massachusetts.

Virgin Pulse, which has 350 employees in the Ocean State, has its headquarters at 75 Fountain St. in Providence.

“Virgin Pulse has been a wonderful story and the state has to keep its word,” said R.I. Commerce board member Mike McNally. “If we don’t keep our word, it will impact our success going forward. I think we have to do this.”

Mary MacDonald is a staff writer for the PBN. Contact her at macdonald@pbn.com.

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