December 14, 2023

RI Delegation Wants SBA Assistance for Local Businesses Squeezed by Washington Bridge Closure

WASHINGTON, DC — In an effort to assist small businesses and nonprofits affected by the emergency closure of the Washington Bridge that began on December 11, 2023, Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation sent a letter urging the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to promptly review any disaster assistance request from the state and to provide resources to help those impacted.

U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Seth Magaziner and Gabe Amo say that small businesses, restaurants, and shops that lose income as a result of the emergency Washington Bridge closure should be eligible for SBA assistance, if the state formally requests disaster aid. 

“The emergency closure of the Washington Bridge was imperative for public safety.  The extended closure of this vital corridor may take a serious toll on Rhode Islanders and people throughout the region, especially residents, commuters, and small businesses,” said Reed, Whitehouse, Magaziner, and Amo in a joint statement. “Nearby businesses rely on the bridge for their daily operations.  Customers might avoid areas surrounding the bridge due to traffic, which would hit business revenues particularly hard during the busy holiday season, and businesses are already struggling to receive and send out deliveries.

“As the state looks to expedite repairs to safely reopen the bridge, we urge the SBA to provide emergency assistance to small businesses along this route, including making low-cost Economic Injury Disaster Loans available, while the bridge is being repaired.  Small businesses are pillars of our community and we must do everything we can to help them stay afloat during the busy holiday season.”

The delegation also encouraged residents to support local businesses, stating:

“This is a critical moment for many of these local businesses.  We’ve seen time and again the way Rhode Islanders come together to assist neighbors in need.  We encourage everyone to make a point to continue supporting these local businesses and we’re working hard at the federal level to cut through red tape and ensure federal aid is quickly available for those who are eligible.”

If the state assesses the economic impact of the emergency bridge closure and certifies that enough small businesses in the area suffered substantial economic injury to warrant an SBA disaster declaration, then the Governor can submit a request to the SBA.  Doing so would allow small business owners to apply for Economic Injury Disaster loans with below-market interest rates and could also allow the SBA to open a Business Recovery Center nearby.  The opening of a Business Recovery Center would allow business owners to meet in-person with SBA specialists to apply for SBA disaster loans and get information on the full breadth of SBA programs.

If a declaration is requested and approved, eligible businesses may borrow up to $2 million to meet their ordinary and necessary financial obligations that cannot be met as a direct result of the disaster, with the loans intended to assist through the recovery period.

Eligible enterprises would include small businesses as well as private nonprofit organizations.  Interest rates for the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) are not more than 4 percent for small businesses and 2.4 percent for nonprofit organizations, with terms up to 30 years.  Loan amounts and terms are set by the SBA and based on each applicant’s financial condition.

Full text of the letter follows:

The Honorable Isabella Casillas Guzman


U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)

409 3rd St, S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20416

Dear Administrator Guzman:

We write to request you promptly review any request from the State of Rhode Island for disaster assistance related to the closure of the Washington Bridge in the cities of Providence and East Providence.

Yesterday, the westbound span of the Washington Bridge, which carries Interstate 195 (I-195) over the Seekonk River between Providence and East Providence, was closed after the discovery of a critical failure of key bridge components. I-195 is the main thoroughfare connecting Providence and the eastern part of Rhode Island, and the Washington Bridge carries nearly 100,000 vehicles crossing southeastern New England each day.

The bridge’s westbound closure has created significant traffic bottlenecks in both Providence and East Providence and will likely last through the end of the year. In addition to significantly hindering local residents, these traffic jams are already preventing customers, workers, and delivery drivers from accessing local businesses. These disruptions are particularly harmful now, as small businesses welcome holiday shoppers.

The holiday season is one of the busiest times of year for many local retailers. We are extremely concerned this disruption will substantially reduce small business revenues and significantly damage our local economy. As such, we urge you to promptly review any disaster request submitted by the State of Rhode Island and ensure that all eligible businesses receive the federal resources they deserve.

Thank you for SBA’s longstanding work supporting communities impacted by disasters. We look forward to your prompt reply and your help ensuring all eligible Rhode Islanders receive federal assistance.



Chip Unruh (Reed), 202-224-4642

Meaghan McCabe (Whitehouse), 202-224-2921

James Kwon (Magaziner), 202-951-0315

Matt Rauschenbach (Amo), 202-225-4911

Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921