PROVIDENCE, R.I. - After announcing that nine of Rhode Island's biggest employers have committed to participate in Supply RI and proposing new funds to help local cities and towns streamline zoning to spark economic development earlier this week, Governor Gina M. Raimondo today laid out a comprehensive package of reforms designed to make Rhode Island friendlier to small businesses.
During today's press conference at Riffraff, a new bookstore, coffee shop and bar in Providence's Olneyville neighborhood, Governor Raimondo also touted an additional $500,000 in her FY19 budget to double the number of small business loans awarded by the end of this year. The Administration awarded 35 loans last year to small businesses and plans to award at least 70 this year. The Small Business Assistance Program was established in 2015 and is the first state-run small business loan program in at least a generation.
"Back in January of 2014, Rhode Island's unemployment rate was nearly 9 percent and the highest in America. Today, it's half that and in line with the majority of states. Small business owners deserve a lot of the credit for that progress. More than half of our workforce works for a business with fewer than 100 employees," said Governor Raimondo. "This package of reforms and our goal to double the number of small business loans by the end of the year will strengthen our small business community and give local business owners the boost they need to hire more Rhode Islanders."
The Small Business Friendliness Omnibus package eliminates a number of unnecessary and duplicative licenses, removes small application fees, and consolidates or eliminates fees for secondary business activities, including an extra fee restaurants pay in order to serve ice cream and other frozen desserts. The package also allows for the ability to align certain certification and permit renewal periods so business owners can spend more time focused on their business and less time focused on paperwork.
"We are committed to making it easier for businesses large and small to succeed and grow in Rhode Island," said Rhode Island Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor. "This package will help simplify regulations and eliminate certain duplicative and unnecessary fees and procedures; it will also increase access to capital through our small business loan program."
"The loan we received from Commerce was instrumental to getting Riffraff up and running," said Emma Ramadan, co-owner of Riffraff. "We're proud to be a part of Rhode Island's vibrant small business community and thank Governor Raimondo for her commitment to small businesses."
The specific reforms in the Small Business Friendliness Omnibus include:
• Modernization of retail frozen desserts licensing: would eliminate an additional license to serve frozen desserts.
• Improvement of liquor license fee processing: would require license fees for liquor licenses issued by the Department of Business Regulations (DBR) be submitted to DBR rather than separately to the Division of Taxation.
• Elimination of unnecessary liquor bonds: reform supported by the Rhode Island Brewers Guild.
• Elimination of mobile home complaint fee: eliminates $25 fee to file a mobile home complaint with DBR.
• Removal of $1 fee for liquor license copies: would modernize the duplicate license request process, eliminate the charge and enable an electronic transfer of license copies for remote printing.
• Elimination of the contractor notarization requirement: would align requirements to register as a contractor with those for electricians, plumbers and most other professions.
• Elimination of zoning requirements for cosmetologists: would streamline process to open salons.
• Elimination of shop space license for hairdressers: removes $50 chair fee associated with a shop space license. Current law requires a business owner interested in obtaining an initial "hair design shop" license to pay a $170 license fee and $50 for each chair in the shop.
• Revision of signature requirements for alcohol licenses: would eliminate the hand-written signature requirement for all alcohol licenses to allow for electronic processing.
• Removal of motor carriers of property hearing obligation: would eliminate burdensome requirement that businesses transporting household goods prove the need for 'public convenience and necessity' aligning the requirements with federal standards.
• Litter and sales permit renewal timelines: would allow the renewal schedule for tax permits to be aligned, making it easier for businesses to stay in compliance with these statutes.
• Reduction of wholesale food processors license fee: would reduce the wholesale food processors license fee from $500 to $300, bringing Rhode Island's rate in line with Massachusetts.
• Extension of Certified Food Safety Manager renewal period: would change the recertification/renewal period for Certified Food Safety Managers from three years to five years.
• Elimination of 14 oath or notarization requirements: would modify statutory language to remove oath and/or notarization requirements for veterinarians, chiropractors, optometrists, opticians, nurses, physical therapists, physical therapy assistants, occupational therapists, psychologists, mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, interpreters for the deaf, applied behavior analysts, and massage therapists.
• Removal of notarization obligation for funeral complaints: would eliminate requirement that complaints filed against funeral directors, embalmers or establishments be notarized. Most complaints filed with the division are filed electronically through the Department of Health website making notarization impractical.
Small and medium-sized businesses employ more than half of Rhode Island's workforce. The Governor will continue to highlight small businesses and the Administration's efforts to continue to create a more business-friendly and competitive environment to ensure that every Rhode Islander has a shot to compete for a good job.