PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island lawmakers on Thursday approved as much as $300 million in emergency borrowing to help the state pay its bills with the economy virtually shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gov. Gina Raimondo told House and Senate leaders the extraordinary measure is needed because the Internal Revenue Service has pushed back the federal income tax filing deadline to July 15, obligating the state to also delay its tax collections.
Other state officials said Rhode Island could run out of money by next week. They also stressed the cash infusion will not be used to create new programs and services that haven’t been approved by lawmakers.
“We’re facing a liquidity problem. We don’t have what we need,” Raimondo said in a rare meeting of the Disaster Emergency Funding Board, which is composed of the House speaker, Senate president and the finance committee chairs in each chamber. “We have to keep the lights on to help keep Rhode Islanders alive.”
Roughly 60,000 Rhode Island residents are seeking jobless benefits amid the virus outbreak, according to state data released Thursday.
Nearly 54,000 people have filed unemployment insurance claims for COVID-19-related reasons since March 9, when the state began tracking and expediting the requests.
Another 6,000 have filed claims for temporary disability benefits.
Rhode Island had more than 130 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.