PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The federal government has designated over $1 billion dollars in federal tax money to Rhode Island, and now it’s up to the state to figure out how to spend it.
State lawmakers convened for their first task force meeting Tuesday night to make sure guidelines and federal laws are being followed when proposals are pitched.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, we could probably agree,” said Rep. Carlos Tobon, a Democrat from Pawtucket.
Tobon, along with Cumberland Democrat Rep. Alex Marszalkowski, are co-chairmen of the state’s House of Representatives American Rescue Plan Act Task Force.
ARPA was passed by Congress and signed on March 11, signaling a distribution of funds to states across the country.
Rhode Island is set to receive $1.8 billion over two years to support state and local fiscal recovery from the pandemic. Any projects funded by this money must be completed by the end of 2026.
“With over $1 billion at stake, we cannot afford to get this wrong and put the state at risk of paying funds back in the future,” Rep. Marszalkowski said.
The ARPA task force is tasked not with how to spend the money, but that the money is being spent in a way that complies with federal and state guidelines. At their first meeting, the committee members reviewed the resources available and the money at stake.
“We’re going to be the committee ‘hold that thought, we’re going to see if it’s an eligible use’ kind-of-committee,” Rep. Tobon said. “We’re going to make sure that people know, and the general public knows, that in trying to be good stewards of this billion dollars, we’re going to be fully transparent, we’re going to make sure that they feel comfortable with the information that’s coming out, and for the general public who is watching and listening, make sure you reach out to your legislators, so we can answer your questions as best possible.”