Group prioritizes ways to spend Rhode Island's COVID relief money

Photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News

By WPRO News

The Rhode Island Foundation brought together a number of community leaders to prioritize ways to spend the $1.1 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Money that has gone unspent until now in Rhode Island under an effort called “Make it Happen: Investing for Rhode Island’s Future“.

The plan, advanced by a 15-member steering committee recommends spending the largest portion, $405 million on the state’s housing needs, followed by other areas including behavioral health, workforce development and small business assistance.

There are also recommendations to meet immediate short-term needs of nonprofit organizations helping those affected the most by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We tested these, we got input, we did focus groups, we did community meetings, we talked to stakeholder groups in all different sectors across the state,” said Neil Steinberg, President and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation in an interview.

“You can’t do everything, we decided we did not want to spread peanut butter on this and just dole it out a little here and there,” Steinberg said.

“These are areas where we can make permanent, substantive, long-term change, especially for those groups, those populations that were hardest hit by COVID,” he said.

Steinberg unveiled the findings publicly Tuesday alongside Michael DiBiase, President and CEO of the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council and Linda Katz of the Economic Progress Institute. He said members of the Congressional delegation and General Assembly leadership were briefed on the proposal Monday.

It follows Governor Dan McKee’s outline of a plan to spend 10% of the total American Rescue Plan Act money on immediate needs, submitting a $113 million supplemental budget request to the General Assembly.