PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Providence City Council on Tuesday revamped a $10 million spending plan to provide reparations to Providence residents, sending it back to committee to consider a newly proposed fund aimed at attracting outside donations to boost the program.

The amended proposal, approved by the council at a special meeting in a vote of 11-0, would create a new COVID-19 equity fund at the United Way of Rhode Island, which would seek outside money to add to the public funds for reparations.

The council cut three line items from the proposed budget — a home repair fund, guaranteed income program and legal defense fund — in order to allocate $1.75 million to the new United Way program.

Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan, the Finance Committee chair, said those three items were already funded using other COVID relief money, and were redundant in the reparations budget.

The reparations effort was initiated by Mayor Jorge Elorza, who said he wanted to search for ways to address past harms inflicted on Black and Indigenous residents of Providence. While that goal remains the same, city leaders have said they cannot legally steer federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money to one race over another.

That means the money will be available to city residents of all races and ethnicities who are low-income or who live in certain low-income neighborhoods, not just Black and Indigenous people.

The official qualifying groups that will be able to access the funds are listed in the ordinance as “Indigenous People, African Heritage People, Qualified Census Tracts and Neighborhoods and Residents Facing Poverty.”

Councilwoman Mary Kay Harris said on the council floor she was initially “pessimistic,” but is now fully in support of the programs being proposed under the federal requirements.

“It did not roll out like reparations,” Harris acknowledged.

“I’m proud of the work,” she said, citing the need for improvements in education and homeownership. “We want to look at opportunities for the generation that’s beyond us,” she added.

Elorza’s reparations proposal did not include any direct payments to residents, instead putting forward a long list of programs ranging from homeownership and financial literacy to scholarships and small business acceleration.

The new United Way fund was first revealed Tuesday night at the special council meeting.

While the fund is seeded with the $1.75 million from taxpayers, it is aimed at “attracting additional investment from outside partners in order to expand the amount of resources available to carry out the mission of the COVID-19 Equities Program,” according to a copy of the amendment.

Soliciting outside donations also means the program will be able to continue past 2024, when the federal government requires ARPA money to be allocated. (It has to be spent by 2026.)

Larry Warner, the chief impact and equity officer at United Way, confirmed Tuesday night that the organization anticipates individual and corporate donors to contribute to the fund, which he said would advance the United Way’s existing work to “advance racial equity.”

The fund would use the same qualifications as the other money in the reparations budget, and any spending from the United Way’s fund would need to be approved by the City Council, according to the proposal.

Warner said one of the goals is to “eliminate the racial wealth gap,” and he cited homeownership as a key factor in promoting the transfer of wealth from generation to generation.

But he said it was premature to say exactly how the money raised for the new fund might be spent.

“It’s too early to say exactly what that will look like,” Warner said. “We look forward to building on the community engagement that’s already been done from the Reparations Commission.

The Municipal Reparations Commission met for months to discuss how to spend the $10 million in ARPA money, which was approved by the City Council back in May.

The commission’s members had acknowledged that $10 million was not nearly enough to repair the harms to Black and Indigenous people in Providence, and suggested large institutions such as universities and corporations should contribute.

“We want more than $10 million,” Rodney Davis, the chair of the commission, said back in July. “This is just the beginning.”

Elorza said he supported the council’s changes to the plan Tuesday night, and said he was looking forward to signing it into law upon final passage.

“The Municipal Reparations Commission and community members dedicated extensive time and efforts to outline their 11-point investment plan,” Elorza said. “I know that the budget is driven by the needs and priorities of the community and it will move the ball forward in closing the existing racial wealth and equity gaps.”

Council President John Igliozzi praised the new plan, while also suggesting he wanted more money transferred to the United Way fund.

“It’s unfortunate more of the COVID-19 Equities Program funding is not under the stewardship of the United Way,” Igliozzi said. “However, the City Council has ensured a portion of these funds will continue to be reinvested in the city long past 2024.”

The newly amended proposal will be discussed in the Finance Committee before being sent back to the full council for final passage.

Steph Machado (smachado@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter covering Providence, politics and more for 12 News. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.