Lt. Gov. Daniel J. McKee couldn’t have picked a better place to stop on his Restore RI Small Business Grant Tour than Johnston.
As Mayor Joseph Polisena has said repeatedly through the years: “Every small business is important. They are the ones that drive our economic engine.”
McKee, who once served as mayor in Cumberland, concurred on a sun-splashed day at Jacavone Garden Center, located at 1461 Atwood Ave. in Johnston.
McKee was accompanied by Mayor Polisena, Johnston Dist. 43 state Rep. Deborah Fellela, Town Council members Linda Folcarelli and Joseph Polisena Jr., and Paul Ouellette, senior vice president of the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s time for the state to make a full-court press on getting Restore RI grant funds out the door and into the hands of small business owners,” McKee told owners of Jacavone Garden Center, Luigi’s Restaurant, Sans Gluten Artisan Bakery and Atwood Car Wash during a four-stop tour. “The clock is running out. The state needs to expand and simplify the program and launch an intentional, meaningful outreach plan to ensure business owners are aware.”
As he presented entrepreneurs like Connie Jacavone and Ralph Battista with a shopping satchels that contained an information kit explaining the program, McKee wanted it known: “We should not gamble with these federal funds and wait to see if Congress extends the deadline. Small businesses need support now.”
McKee, who plans to visit over 200 small businesses in the state about the sorely needed grant program, also pledged: “In the meantime, I will continue visiting small businesses here in Johnston and across the state to spread the word about the Restore RI program until every last dollar is given out.”
The Restore RI grant program allocates $50 million of CARES Act funding to support the state’s small businesses affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Some 20 percent of the funding is designated for minority-owned business enterprises.
The program is one element in a $100 million-plus package of emergency financial support for Rhode Island’s small businesses that have been affected by the ongoing pandemic. Grants of up to $30,000 are available for eligible Rhode Island businesses and nonprofit organizations impacted by COVID-19. Grant amounts will be calculated on business size, industry and revenue loss.
Businesses that require assistance may contact the Rhode Island Commerce Small Business Hotline at Info@CommerceRI.com, and grants of $1,000 to $30,000 are available by contacting CommeceRI.com. People may also call McKee’s office at 401-222-2371.
“This is a tremendous pro-small business program,” Mayor Polisena said while congratulating and thanking McKee for his efforts. “[Jacavone Garden Center] is an iconic family business that has been here for years. We’re told that they sold more vegetables and plants than in past years during the pandemic; we need to keep all small businesses thriving.”
“The value of family businesses will always be there and we would not want anyone to be here except us,” Connie Jacavone said.
Polisena also echoed those sentiments while talking about Luigi’s Italian Restaurant, Sans Gluten Artisan Bakery and the Atwood Car Wash, which he noted are valuable to Johnston’s small business landscape.
Fellela, who takes pride in helping local businesses and nonprofits, said: “The initiative Lt. Gov. McKee is taking is not only wonderful for our small businesses, but necessary. I was glad to hear first-hand and receive the info to let some of our small businesses in town be aware of it. It is giving hope for these folks running small businesses that they are now forgotten; they are our community partners.”
Councilman Polisena offered: “Lt. Gov. McKee has done a great job advocating for small businesses throughout this pandemic. Small businesses provide local, state and the federal government the revenue they need with their employment, services and sales. In the time of an unprecedented crisis such as this pandemic, it’s the role of the government to now come to their aide. Hopefully small business owners line-up to take advantage of the aid they deserve.”
Folcarelli, who represents District 1 on the Johnston Town Council, added: “We need more programs like this extremely valuable grant program and he should be applauded for his efforts. It’s a wonderful program that comes along when our small businesses owners, their families and our citizens need help during these unfortunate and uncertain times.”
Ouellette, who has accompanied McKee during some of his visits to small business in northern Rhode Island, offered: “I commend him for taking the initiative to organize the visits to inform small businesses of the millions of dollars available through Restore RI grants. The visits give me an opportunity to inform small business owners not only the benefits of being associated with the Chamber, but it also allows us to inform them about other state and federal programs they can apply for.”