Governor to lawmakers: Spend some of $1.1B in rescue funds

RI Governor Dan McKee talks with reporters in a September 21, 2021 news conference in Providence. Photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island’s governor wants state legislative leaders to decide soon on how to spend federal funds to help the state recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Democratic Gov. Dan McKee said in a press briefing Tuesday that Rhode Island is the only state in the Northeast that has not spent any of its American Rescue Plan funds. Rhode Island was allocated $1.1 billion.

The Senate Finance Committee is considering how to spend the money and the House appointed a task force, but the legislature is not currently in session. The House group was charged with beginning its work in the fall and continuing to study the issue into the 2022 legislative session.

McKee said he wants the state to spend at least 10% of the money before the end of the year to help small businesses struggling during the pandemic, to create affordable housing and to help childcare providers retain workers and stay open. The state can spend the rest later on longer-term investments, such as infrastructure and climate change initiatives, McKee added.

McKee said he spoke with the House speaker and Senate president Tuesday about his ideas and the need for urgency.

“We don’t want to be chasing the economic recovery, we want to be leading it,” he said.