PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Dan McKee, House Speaker Joe Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio on Monday announced they have reached an agreement to start spending some of the state’s American Rescue Plan Act funding and other dollars on immediate priorities.
During a news briefing, Shekarchi and Ruggerio announced the legislature’s commitment to act on McKee’s “Rhode Island Rebounds” proposal by bringing it to a vote in the finance committees next week. The full House and Senate are expected to vote on the measure by early January.
The proposal, which McKee first put forward in October, is to spend $113 million — or 10% — of the state’s $1.13 billion in federal American Rescue Plan funds to help jump start Rhode Island’s recovery. (That pot of money is from the State Fiscal Recovery Fund and comes with few strings attached, unlike other Rescue Plan distributions the state is receiving.)
The deal unveiled Monday covers about $174 million in new spending.
In addition to the $113 million from ARPA funds, the governor’s office also announced that McKee will allocate $57.4 million of enhanced federal Medicaid funding to pay for “workforce-related investments which will provide support to nearly 4,500 home- and community-based services direct care workers.”
Separately, McKee will devote $3.64 million in unspent CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund to the Early Intervention program, which is designed to help toddlers from birth to three years old who have any type of developmental delay. The state’s Early Intervention providers recently stopped accepting new enrollees due to a lack of funding. Another $5.5 million for Early Intervention is part of the $113 million pot of ARPA spending.
Here is how the initial $113 million from ARPA will be spent overall, according to the governor’s office:
- $38.5 million “to support children, families, and social supports”
- $32 million “to assist small businesses impacted by COVID-19”
- $29.5 million “to promote affordable housing, housing stability supports and broadband”
- $13 million “for hard-hit tourism, hospitality and event industries.”
“The House has been collaboratively working with the Senate and Governor McKee for several months to ensure that the ARPA funding is spent wisely and invested in a long-term sustainable manner,” Shekarchi said.
McKee, Shekarchi, and Ruggerio also pledged to add an additional $6 million to address growing child care needs.
“Today, we are making a crucial investment in Rhode Island’s recovery,” McKee said. “Our administration is committed to delivering support for home- and community-based direct care workers and ensuring that children with developmental needs receive the services they need.”
State leaders dismissed criticism that it took a long time to allocate ARPA funds in Rhode Island compared to other states who have already used their funds.
The rest of the federal funding will be allocated during next year’s legislative session.
There was mixed reaction to the announcement Monday. Some quickly spoke out in favor of the agreement:
Others expressed reservations or outright criticism of the plan:
Ted Nesi contributed to this report.