Raimondo unveils expanded housing and infrastructure bonding

RI Governor Gina Raimondo addresses Rhode Islanders on the coronavirus pandemic at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium July 10, 2020. Listening at back is RI Department of Health director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott. Pool photo by Sandor Bodo / The Providence Journal

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Gov. Gina Raimondo on Monday announced increases to her proposed housing and infrastructure and recreational bond recommendations for the upcoming state budget as part of her plan to boost Rhode Island’s post-pandemic economy.

The Housing and Infrastructure Bond, which the new proposal increases from $87.5 million to $310.5 million, includes a $40 million increase in the Housing and Community Revitalization Fund to help design, develop, or repair about 2,000 housing units statewide, the Democratic governor said in a statement.

Another $183 million will go toward boosting the offshore wind industry, repairing the state’s roads and bridges, and building a new health laboratory for disease prevention and management to improve health care infrastructure and ensure that the state is prepared for future pandemics.

A $5 million increase in the Beach, Clean Water and Green Bond will help fund improvements to the state’s recreational facilities, protect the environment and invest in tourism.

“As we look to build a more resilient and equitable Rhode Island beyond this pandemic, it’s critical that we make significant, long-term investments in our future,” Raimondo said. “These updated bond proposals reflect the urgency of this moment and our need to spur economic growth and create jobs while supporting communities hit hardest in our state.”

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NURSING HOME GRANTS

Rhode Island is providing $100,000 in grants to the state’s nursing homes to help residents remain digitally connected to family and friends during the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Gina Raimondo said.

Under the plan, eligible facilities will receive up to $3,000 to purchase smart devices and related accessories for residents, the Democrat said in an emailed statement Sunday. Facilities can apply for the grants at the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services website.

The state is also opening what the governor called a “virtual community center” for older residents. The site, agefriendlyri.org, includes educational and wellness programming, technology training, and live chat times to give residents a way to connect.

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FOOD PANTRIES

Food pantries in the Newport area are expecting increased demand now that an extra $600 a week in jobless benefits many families have been receiving during the pandemic is set to end this week.

“I am expecting to see a spike in the number of people coming in when the unemployment benefits expire,” Heather Strout, executive director of the Dr. Martin Luther King Community Center told The Newport Daily News. “We’ve been planning for this as a real possibility.”

“We’ve started storing up food,” she said.

Their organizations, like many across the state, rely on deliveries from the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.

The food bank distributes about 1 million pounds of food per month in a normal year, but that has jumped to 1.3 million pounds per month during the pandemic, Executive Director Andrew Schiff said.

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PROVIDENCE COLLEGE GRADUATION CANCELED

Providence College has again postponed in-person commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2020.

The school at first postponed the traditional spring graduation exercise until Oct. 31, but on Monday announced that date also has been canceled given the uncertainties about how long current state regulations on large gatherings and quarantine requirements for out-of-state travelers will last.

The college hopes to celebrate the Class of 2020 sometime next year, but no date has been scheduled.

The school will send diplomas to graduates’ home addresses.