State announces $20M for new hotel, tourism and arts relief program

PROVIDENCE Gov. Gina M. Raimondo announced Thursday a new $20 million relief program to aid the hotel, arts and tourism industries, now known as “HArT.”

The program, which is paid for by a portion of Rhode Island’s $1.25 billion federal COVID-19 stimulus funds, will provide direct support grants as well as placemaking activity grants to eligible businesses. The grants will be used to prevent the long-term closure of arts, culture, hospitality and tourism businesses and institutions, while also “building resiliency, workforce support, and community engagement,” according to R.I. Commerce’s announcement.

“Rhode Island’s hospitality, tourism, and arts industries have made great sacrifices to ensure the safety of their customers and staff, and we need to do everything we can to help them through this pandemic,” said Raimondo in a statement. “The HArT Relief Program will not only help these businesses stay open, but also to find innovative ways to adapt to this crisis.”

Of the total $20 million, half will be used for support engagement, service and resiliency activities, or “ESR” funds.

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Commerce’s announcement said the ESR funds will spur economic activity, create safe opportunities to gather and allow increased artistic and tourism-friendly opportunities. Some of the examples of uses include hotel vouchers, hosting safe meetings and enabling remote events.

The other $10 million will be used as direct support for arts and culture, hotels and tourism organizations.

Applicants can receive up to $1 million in direct support and up to $350,000 for the ESR activities, depending on their size. However, awards cannot exceed an organization’s revenue loss after accounting for other federal funding received, according to the announcement.

The direct support grant money can be used for operating costs, including salaries, as well as reopening costs, critical repairs and maintenance, adaptive upgrades, technical assistance, marketing support, activities to boost community wellbeing and “other activities to build up the sustainability and resilience of the hospitality and tourism industry in Rhode Island.”

“During the pandemic the arts sector in Rhode Island literally ground to a halt,” said Randall Rosenbaum, executive director of the R.I. State Council on the Arts. “Theaters and concert halls and museums were shuttered, and artists and cultural workers lost their livelihoods.”

Applications will be posted by Monday, Nov. 2 and applications are due by Monday, Nov. 9, according to the announcement.

The funds must be spent by December 30, 2020.

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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