Chamber Connections BLOG
Chamber Connections BLOG
This Week At the State House
Passing of Senator Frank Lombardo, III
The Senate has a very limited schedule this week as the entire General Assembly honors the passing of Senator Frank Lombardo, III of Johnston. As stated by the Senate leadership, “First elected to the Senate in 2010, Frank represented the Town of Johnston in the Rhode Island Senate with great distinction for more than a decade. He was a champion for his constituents, and especially for the small businesses that make up the backbone of our state’s economy. A small business owner himself, he believed deeply in the power of entrepreneurship and the need to open doors of opportunity to all Rhode Islanders. In 2019, he was named Chairman of the Senate Committee on Housing & Municipal Government, a role in which he provided outstanding leadership.” Senator Lombardo was a friend to the Chamber of Commerce and will be missed greatly.
Tuesday, February 27th
Once again, the House Corporations Committee will take testimony on self-service check-out lines; although this year’s bill is slightly different from the bill introduced last year. H.7230, An Act Relating to Commercial Law – Grocery Stores limits the number of customer self-checkout stations to six, requires grocery stores to maintain one manual check-out station for every self-checkout station in use, and gives the Attorney General’s office the authority to impose penalties for noncompliance. The penalty amount is not defined. The self-service check-out limitation provision in H.7230 could bring under its umbrella grocery stores, pharmacies, and certain retail stores that offer a wide array of goods. Written testimony can be forwarded to HouseCorporations@rilegislature.gov
Next Week At the State House
The House Finance Committee has scheduled a number of hearings on the Governor’s proposed budget. On March 5th, the Committee will be hearing particular sections of Article 6 – Tax Article. Article 6 sections 3, 6 and 16-20 affects businesses engaging in the sale of e-cigarette and vaping products. The Governor proposes to change the licensing process to include these sales in the same license as regular tobacco products. Any products sold without a license would be subject to confiscation by the state starting October 1, 2024. The budget also includes a tax on these products equal to 80% of the wholesale cost (an exemption exists for research products).
Article 6 sections 14 and 15 propose to increase the cigarette tax by $.25 a pack for a total tax of $4.50 per pack. The language also calls for an age verification process to be adopted by online retailers of tobacco and electronic nicotine delivery systems.
Article 6 section 11 – Under current law, each year, the Tax Administrator is required to prepareand publish a list of the top 100 delinquent taxpayers in the state. The Governor’s budget expands the requirement so that the annual list will include all taxpayers to owe at least $50,000 in state taxes.
Article 6, section 21 eliminates the $50 filing fee for estates of decedents with a death on or after January 1, 2025
The following new bills have been filed:
Senate Bill No. 2496 DiPalma, Valverde, Burke, Miller, Felag, Bissaillon, Pearson, Lawson, Murray, Acosta, AN ACT RELATING TO THE CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM (Authorizes the submission of proposals for several bonds to the people of the state at the general election to be held in November, 2024. These bonds relate to capital development and the "green economy.")
House Bill No. 7700 Speakman, Donovan, Morales, Carson, Cotter, Spears, Cortvriend, Potter, Fenton-Fung, AN ACT RELATING TO FOOD AND DRUGS -- ADVERTISING OF RHODE ISLAND PRODUCTS -- LOCAL FOOD (Defines what local means as it pertains to certain food types being sold and advertised in Rhode Island.)
Black History Month Free Web Seminar: Paving Paths: Cultivating Black Entrepreneurship
Wednesday, February 28, 2024, 10-11 AM
In celebration of Black History Month, SCORE RI and the SBA are honored to present five extraordinary Black business owners who have cultivated entrepreneurial success.
Join us as we delve into their inspiring journeys - from humble beginnings to overcoming obstacles to achieving their dreams. These trailblazers will share their personal stories, hard-won wisdom, and practical advice.
Whether you're an aspiring entrepreneur or established business owner, their powerful stories will motivate and empower you. After gaining insights from their unique perspectives, you'll have the opportunity to ask them your most pressing questions during an open Q&A session.
Don't miss this chance to be inspired by these successful leaders as they reveal their secrets to cultivating Black entrepreneurial excellence. Register now for what's sure to be an unforgettable event.
Our Panel of Entrepreneurs
Yemi Sekoni, Moderator - President, Donahue Creative Group
Pearl Farquharson, Owner & Creative Director, Designed by Delsie
Pearl "Delsie" Farquharson, the innovative mind behind Designed by Delsie, orchestrates luxury event experiences for discerning couples, seamlessly blending tradition and innovation. With a fusion of Jamaican heritage, culinary expertise, and a keen eye for design, Pearl leads Delsie to prominence as a trailblazer in contemporary event planning, while championing diversity and investing in under-represented businesses.
Amina Victoria Uyisabye, CEO, Amina Prince's Place
With a focus on supporting refugees, Amina Prince’s Place offers comprehensive assistance such as securing safe and affordable housing, financial management guidance, and transportation for medical visits and grocery shopping. Their goal is to innovate refugee services by identifying and addressing their needs in ways not traditionally explored within social service networks.
Vennicia Kingston, Owner, Eagle Eye Post Construction Services
Vennicia, a seasoned tradeswoman since 2014, launched her business in post-construction cleaning, securing major contracts with prominent general contractors like Gilbane. With notable achievements such as representing women in the trades nationally and receiving accolades like RIBBA's Member of the Year award, she remains dedicated to advancing gender diversity in traditionally male-dominated industries, exemplifying leadership and advocacy in her field.
Anthony L Sanders, Snr, CEO, Awoken Apparel
Awoken Apparel is a collection of top-tier accessories, featuring both custom-crafted pieces and unique selections. The underlying objective is straightforward: aWoken Apparel is characterized by exceptional and personalized attention, coupled with an unwavering focus on the finest details.
Hi there! I’m Dolly, CEO of A La Carte Business Advisors & a dedicated bookkeeper and numbers enthusiast who left the corporate world to pursue a flexible schedule that allows me to prioritize family life while doing what I love !
My ambitions stretch from exploring the enchanting landscapes of Europe to moving into my dream home .
As I travel this journey, my ultimate goal is to build a brand that assists food businesses with their unique bookkeeping needs, educate them on profitability and establish our firm as the leading bookkeeping companion for the food industry .
When I’m not crunching numbers, you’ll find me delving into captivating books like ‘The Secret’ or any book written by Mike Michalowicz, enjoying thrilling movies such as ‘Mission Impossible’ and ‘Die Hard’, or immersing myself in a vibrant mix of R & B, Pop and Arabic Music. I’m also a sports enthusiast, with a particular love for basketball and volleyball . In my leisure time, I indulge in hobbies like hiking, bike riding, traveling, beach relaxation, shopping and spending quality moments with my loved ones.
I strive to make a positive impact on the world around me…..let’s journey together towards a future where passion and profitability merge seamlessly!
Schedule a Discovery Session today! https://ConnectwithDolly.as.me/DiscoverySessionZoom
IRS announces special Saturday hours for face-to-face help; more than 50 Taxpayer Assistance Centers open across the nation
IR-2024-41, Feb. 14, 2024
WASHINGTON — As part of a continuing effort to improve service this tax season, the Internal Revenue Service today announced special Saturday hours for the next four months at specific Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs) across the country.
The special Saturday openings will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Feb. 24, March 16, April 13 and May 18. Offices in dozens of states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico will be open during this special four-month event, with no appointments required.
Currently, more than 50 locations plan to be open on Feb. 24, and more than 70 offices are scheduled for the March 16 event. The IRS encourages taxpayers to visit the special Saturday hours for participating TAC locations.
“We are laser focused on delivering the best service possible for taxpayers. These Saturday hours are designed to help those with busy weekday work schedules get the help they need at a time more convenient for them,” said IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel. “Funding from the Inflation Reduction Act has enabled us to expand our services, tools and resources for hard-working taxpayers, including these special Saturday openings.”
The IRS encourages everyone to first check IRS.gov for information about these special openings before traveling to an office. They may even find an online resource, such as the Interactive Tax Assistant tool, to answer their question or resolve their tax concern and avoid traveling to an office.
At TACs, people receive in-person help from IRS employees. Ordinarily, these centers are only open Monday through Friday, with appointments normally needed. However, during these Saturday hours, people can walk-in for all services routinely offered at an office, except for making cash payments. To make an appointment during regular hours, call 844-545-5640.
Professional foreign language interpretation will be available in many languages through an over-the-phone translation service. For deaf or hard of hearing individuals who need sign language interpreter services, IRS staff will schedule appointments for a later date. Alternatively, these individuals can call TTY/TDD 800-829-4059 to make an appointment.
Please come prepared
Individuals should bring the following documents when they visit these offices:
During the visit, IRS staff may also request the following information:
Many TACs extend office hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays
Another option for people to get face-to-face help outside of a TAC’s normal operating hours is to visit before or after regular operating hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Many TACs around the country have extended their office hours on these days until April 16. To see if a nearby TAC is offering the added hours, view its listing at IRS.gov/taclocator.
Tax return preparation options
While tax return preparation is not a service offered at IRS TACs, information will be shared about available local free tax preparation options. Help is also available using the following services:
Help available 24/7 at IRS.gov
The fastest and easiest way for people to get the help they need is through IRS.gov. Go to www.irs.gov for more information. Available resources include:
For additional information on available services, see IRS Publication 5136, IRS Services Guide.
This Week At the State House
The legislature is on break this week. The House bill filing deadline has been extended to February 27th. Both the House and Senate will resume hearings and floor sessions Tuesday, February 27, 2024.
US Chamber Asks for Your Help
In 2017, Congress passed a permanent reduction to the corporate income tax rate from 35% to 21% as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. To ensure that pass-through businesses like sole proprietorships, partnerships, and S corporations (i.e., the overwhelming majority of small businesses) weren’t put at a tax disadvantage relative to C corporations, Congress created a new 20% deduction for qualified business income. This deduction is codified at section 199A of the Internal Revenue Code. Unlike the permanent reduction for C corporations, however, the 20% deduction for pass-through businesses is scheduled to expire at the end of 2025. This 20% deduction effectively operates as a rate reduction for pass-through businesses, with some limitations. If a business owner's income exceeds a certain threshold ($383,900 for joint filers and $191,950 for other filers in 2024), the benefit of the 20% deduction may be limited based on the amount of wages paid to non-owner employees (W-2 wages). Generally speaking, the more W-2 wages a business pays, the greater the deduction that business’s owner(s) can claim. According to data obtained by the US Chamber, Rhode Island's percentage of employment at pass-through businesses is 53.82%. Rhode Island's percentage of employment at large pass-through businesses (over 100 employees) is 30.2%. The collective tax benefit of this deduction in Rhode Island is $486,454,000. The US Chamber is asking all businesses to contact members of the Congressional delegation and ask them to enact the “Main Street Tax Certainty Act,” which would make the 20% pass-through deduction permanent.
RI Office of Energy Resources Announces Programs for Commercial Buildings
The net-metering program is one of two solar programs available to homeowners and businesses interested in going solar. Customers can choose to have a net-metered system, OR an REG system (see below), but not both. The decision is binding for the lifetime of the contract. Net-metering is a mechanism for crediting the power produced by renewable energy systems installed behind a customer meter. Net-metering allows customers with eligible renewable energy systems to receive bill credits for all power generated up to 125 percent of the on-site consumption during a billing period. To participate in net metering, a renewable energy system must be sited on the customer’s premises. Eligible customer-sited net metering systems must be sized to meet on-site loads, based on a three-year average of electricity consumption at the property. For more information on net-metering, visit: https://energy.ri.gov/renewable-energy/wind/net-metering
Renewable Energy Fund (REF) Commercial Scale Solar Program
Business’s, nonprofits, academic institutions, municipal/state buildings or other large facilities are eligible for the Commercial Scale solar program. The grant payment will go to whoever the applicant or grantee of the project is. Your selected solar installer will apply to the REF on your behalf. This grant is available for Net-Metered systems only. After the solar PV system is installed, the grant will go directly to the installer after the completion paperwork is processed and a quality assurance evaluation of the system is complete. If using the REF Small Scale program, make sure the turnkey contract with your installer clearly shows how much the grant is for and includes a clause with an option for cancellation in case the grant program becomes fully subscribed. This is a popular program with a limited annual amount of funding.
· Funding: Commercial Scale: Starts at $.70/watt and progressively goes down as the size increases (see a checklist for full incentive calculator $400,000 cap
· Energy storage Adder Incentive: $.50/watt, max $40,000 per project
· Round 24-1 Commercial Scale: Friday, March 1, 2024; 9am
Solar Installers can access the application using the following link: https://commerceri.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/REF-Commercial-Scale-Application-10.15.21.pdf
Renewable Energy Growth Program
The Renewable Energy Growth (REG) Program, administered by Rhode Island Energy, supports the development of distributed generation projects in Rhode Island. The program enables customers to sell their generation output under long-term tariffs at fixed prices. Participants sign a 20-year long-term contract with a fixed electricity price and a Production-Based Incentive (PBI) payment. Participants receive bill credits on their electricity bill up to the amount owed, and any excess generation is compensated to the customer in the form of a direct deposit. You must be an RI Energy customer to use this program. Eligible technologies include wind, solar, small-scale hydropower, and anaerobic digestion. To learn more about this program, please visit https://energy.ri.gov/renewable-energy/wind/renewable-energy-growth-program-reg-program. You can learn more about the 2022 REG program by visiting https://ngus.force.com/servlet/servlet.FileDownload?file=0156T00000FLwcH.
Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE)
Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) is a financing program that allows commercial property owners to repay the costs of energy efficiency or renewable energy projects in conjunction with their property tax payments. Municipalities must opt-in to C-PACE in order to participate. The list of participating communities can be found here: https://riib.org/solutions/programs/commercial-property-assessed-clean-energy/
The following new bills have been filed:
Senate Bill No. 2268 Lawson, Lauria, DiMario, Euer, Zurier, Cano, Kallman, Murray, Mack, Bissaillon, AN ACT RELATING TO COMMERCIAL LAW -- GENERAL REGULATORY PROVISIONS -- GROCERY STORES (Requires grocery stores to specifically limit the number of self-service checkout units to six (6) units per location. The consumer protection unit of the department of attorney general would have authority to enforce these restrictions.)
Senate Bill No. 2273 Euer, LaMountain, Burke, Bissaillon, DiMario, Gallo, Lawson, Cano, AN ACT RELATING TO COMMERCIAL LAW -- GENERAL REGULATORY PROVISIONS -- UNFAIR SALES PRACTICES (Requires businesses that offer automatic subscription renewals/continuous service offers to provide consumers with notice to the consumer prior to their engagement in the contract along with notice of renewal of subscription/cancellation info. eff. 1/1/25)
Senate Bill No. 2276 Tikoian, Raptakis, Quezada, Ciccone, Murray, F. Lombardi, Britto, Burke, Rogers, Felag, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY -- VEHICLE BARRIERS-THE CHARLOTTE A. VACCA ACT (Requires commercial property owners to install vehicle barriers at their retail establishment locations when construction/renovations are being done and permits insurers to consider the installation to provide a discount on the owner's insurance policy.)
Senate Bill No. 2279 Zurier, Acosta, Britto, Murray, AN ACT RELATING TO FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS -- CONSUMER CHECKING ACCOUNTS (Establishes Rhode Island consumer checking accounts to insure the availability of low-cost, low-volume basic checking services for citizens of the state.)
Senate Bill No. 2282 Bissaillon, Ciccone, Cano, Gallo, AN ACT RELATING TO EDUCATION -- CURRICULUM (Establishes "workplace readiness week". It requires all public high schools, including charter schools, to annually observe that week by providing information to students on their rights as workers and specifies the topics that must be covered.) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText24/SenateText24/S2282.pdf
Senate Bill No. 2292 Mack, Euer, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- THE GREEN JUSTICE ZONE ACT (Establishes the first Green Justice Zone, a model that may be replicated in future years to ensure that all communities throughout the state have clean air and clean water.)
Senate Bill No. 2347 Euer, Acosta, Bissaillon, Mack, DiMario, Zurier, Gu, Murray, Bell, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION -- TAX ON GAINS FROM THE SALE OR EXCHANGE OF REAL PROPERTY (Creates new tax on gains from sale or exchange of real property held for short periods of time, 6 years or less, establishes a comprehensive framework to calculate and implement enforcement and provides imprisonment and/or fines for those who evade taxes.)
Senate Bill No. 2350 Tikoian, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION -- PROPERTY SUBJECT TO TAXATION (Exempts from taxation real and tangible personal property classified as industrial and would extend the exemption period from ten (10) years to twenty (20) years.)
Senate Bill No. 2355 Murray, Lawson, Euer, Cano, Ciccone, Britto, Acosta, Gu, Mack, Bissaillon, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION -- PERSONAL INCOME TAX (Creates an additional Rhode Island personal income surtax of 3% on taxable income over $1,000,000, with the existing three-bracket personal income tax structure remaining in place.)
Senate Bill No. 2366 Sosnowski, Euer, Miller, Ujifusa, Acosta, DiPalma, Kallman, Britto, Ciccone, AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC UTILITIES AND CARRIERS -- DUTIES OF UTILITIES AND CARRIERS (Creates an income-sensitive tiered subsidy program to ensure that home energy utility costs are affordable for eligible low-income households.)
Senate Bill No. 2467 Cano, Lawson, Acosta, Mack, Britto, Bell, Valverde, Miller, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- RHODE ISLAND PARENTAL AND FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE ACT (Increases the amount of parental or family leave available to an employee from thirteen (13) weeks to twenty-four (24) weeks in any two (2) calendar years.)
Senate Bill No. 2475 Ciccone, Burke, Britto, F. Lombardi, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- MINIMUM WAGES (Sets the minimum wage for 2025 at seventeen dollars ($17.00) per hour and for 2026 at twenty dollars ($20.00) per hour.)
Senate Bill No. 2477 Ciccone, Acosta, F. Lombardi, Britto, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- PAYMENT OF WAGES -- FREQUENCY OF PAYMENT (Eliminate all exceptions to the provision that all employees are to be paid weekly except for employees of the state and its political subdivisions, municipal governments, and non-profit organizations with less than twenty-five (25) employees.)
House Bill No. 7607 Nardone, Place, Shallcross Smith, Quattrocchi, Rea, Roberts, Cortvriend, AN ACT RELATING TO INSURANCE -- SMALL EMPLOYER HEALTH INSURANCE AVAILABILITY ACT (Amends the definition of "small employer" for purposes of the small employer health insurance availability act to mean a business employing less than one hundred (100) employees rather than fifty (50) employees.)
House Bill No. 7617 Kislak, Cortvriend, Fogarty, Carson, Speakman, McEntee, Spears, Morales, McGaw, Felix, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY -- BUILDING DECARBONIZATION ACT OF 2024 (Establishes a program for the energy and water benchmarking of large buildings in Rhode Island and a standard for their energy performance.)
House Bill No. 7650 Morales, Slater, DeSimone, McGaw, Henries, Handy, Fogarty, Bennett, Stewart, McNamara, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- FAIR EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES -- EXTREME TEMPERATURE EMPLOYEE PROTECTION (Directs employers to take certain actions to protect their employees who are exposed to extreme hot and cold temperatures and failure to implement or perform any of those actions would be an unlawful employment practice.)
House Bill No. 7660 Costantino, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION -- PROPERTY SUBJECT TO TAXATION (Exempts from taxation real and tangible personal property classified as industrial and would extend the exemption period from ten (10) years to twenty (20) years.)
Small Business Administration Announces Further Action to Help PPP and COVID EIDL Borrowers | U.S. Small Business Administration (sba.gov)
Small Business Administration Announces Further Action to Help PPP and COVID EIDL BorrowersSBA Introduces 60-Day Goodwill Exception Period, Expands Hardship Accommodation Plans
Published on January 5, 2024WASHINGTON – The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has announced expanded flexibility and accommodations for COVID EIDL and PPP borrowers to help bring them into compliance and avoid the repercussions of defaulting on a government loan.
For COVID EIDL and PPP borrowers with loans under $100,000, the SBA has implemented a 60-day goodwill exception period starting January 1 and lasting through March 3, 2024. During this period, the SBA will build on its extensive outreach to affected businesses to ensure that PPP borrowers know how to apply for forgiveness and COVID EIDL borrowers are aware of all repayment options — including the opportunity for hardship repayment plans. Further, the SBA will refrain from escalating collections activities until after the goodwill exemption period.
Small business borrowers in delinquency or default who take action and obtain good standing with the SBA will improve their long-term financial health substantially. The benefits of getting, and staying, current on SBA loans include better credit scores, which make it cheaper and easier to buy a home or car in the future; eligibility for future government financial assistance, like a VA loan or help after a natural disaster; and, in some cases, avoidance of federal and private collections activities which can include withholding tax returns and wage garnishment.
For PPP Borrowers:
Hundreds of thousands of PPP borrowers can avoid default and the repercussions that come along with it without repaying the loan. Those who have met the payroll requirements can simply complete the PPP forgiveness application, which takes most borrowers less than 15 minutes. If PPP borrowers are unsure if their loan has been forgiven, they can check by logging in to the MySBA loan portal. Once logged in, borrowers will see all of their SBA loans, including PPP loans, and the status of each loan. For PPP loans, the status will show “paid in full” if the PPP loan has been forgiven.
PPP borrowers who are not sure if their loan has been forgiven and see other statuses should apply for forgiveness immediately. See the SBA website for instructions on how to apply for PPP forgiveness.
Borrowers who need assistance with forgiveness can contact SBA at our dedicated forgiveness call center: 877-552-2692. The call center is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. ET.
For COVID EIDL Borrowers:
All COVID EIDL borrowers must repay their loans, but the SBA has programs to help – including expanded hardship accommodation plans. COVID EIDL hardship accommodation plans significantly lower monthly payments – sometimes as low as $25 per month – for six months, and then payments gradually increase over a multi-year period. More information for COVID EIDL hardship accommodation plans is available on the SBA website. Many borrowers can apply for a hardship accommodation plan directly through the MySBA loan portal. Once logged in, COVID EIDL borrowers can click “Loan Summaries” in the toolbar, then “Hardship Accommodation Plan” in the bottom right corner, and finally “Learn More and Enroll.”
For further assistance, please contact COVID-19 EIDL Customer Service at 833-853-5638 (TTY:711), email COVIDEIDLServicing@sba.gov, or send a message through the MySBA Loan Portal. COVID-19 EIDL Customer Service is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET.
For All Borrowers
The SBA offers free or low-cost counseling for small businesses through its national network of Resource Partners. These partner organizations may be able to help small businesses fit loan repayments into their budgets, provide information on applicable tax benefits, and offer other counseling services. Contact your local District Office for assistance with locating a Resource Partner to address your needs or search to see what is available in your area.
The SBA remains committed to its core mission of supporting America’s small businesses and will make a significant effort to bring borrowers back into compliance before escalating collection activities.
For more information about SBA’s loan programs, financial assistance, and other services, visit sba.gov.
About the U.S. Small Business Administration
The U.S. Small Business Administration makes the American dream of business ownership a reality. As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow or expand their businesses, or recover from a declared disaster. It delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more, visit www.sba.gov.
Related programs: Disaster, PPP
Last Week At the State House