The Rhode Island Black Business Association proposes that Commerce RI establish an Office of Microbusiness Support, to be administered and staffed by RIBBA. The Office will permanently target support to low revenue under-served microbusinesses, the very small businesses that cannot qualify for the current SBA Disaster Loan, and generally don’t qualify for SBA loans at all.

In late March and early April, beauty salon owners and retail business owners began to contact RIBBA desperate for a loan or other assistance to sustain their businesses during this crisis. None of the businesses that contacted us were aware of any of the loan and grant programs established to mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19. In response, in addition to serving our current clients, RIBBA has made counseling and technical assistance available to help clients harmed by the COVID-19 crisis negotiate applications for financial support and we have established our own emergency loan program of up to $5,000. Business owners can call RIBBA at 401-383-1179 to request support or go to our website to apply for assistance, www.ri-bba.org.

At RIBBA, we believe that providing permanent support for low revenue microbusinesses is essential both during and after this crisis. These underserved businesses are the core of our neighborhoods – they are various stores, beauty salons, nail salons, barbershops, breakfast shops, pizza parlors, and more. In RI, there are around 22,000 businesses with 9 or fewer employees – microbusinesses. Nationally, microbusiness owners who work full time, earn less than $50,000 in sales and receipts.

Actions taken to combat the COVID-19 virus have already forced many RI microbusinesses to close. Without encouragement and financial support, many will not reopen. And the expected economic recession is likely to all but wipe out RI’s small minority microbusiness community almost all of which earn business revenue considerably lower than non-minority small business revenues. And with lower revenue, minority businesses have fewer resources to help them weather this crisis.

RIBBA counselors and experts stand ready to assist microbusiness owners who need assistance to apply for loans and grants, and advice on how to assist their employees or former employees to get through this crisis.