PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza signed a spending plan for $124 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding Friday, paving the way for the city to invest tens of millions of dollars into housing and infrastructure projects.
“It goes to support a bunch of different, really important initiatives,” Elorza told 12 News during a live interview just hours after signing the ordinance. “But the most important thing is the housing crisis, really the housing affordability crisis in the city.”
The budget allocates nearly $31 million to housing, including $17 million for affordable housing development.
“We’re going to be able to invest in hopefully the creation of hundreds of affordable units, which also allows for the creation of other market units over the coming years,” Elorza said. “So this is going to be a gift that keeps on giving.”
In addition to housing, the city is allocating roughly $20 million towards investments in water, sewer, broadband and infrastructure; $24 million toward addressing community and social disparities; $6.2 million in the recovery of sectors like tourism and hospitality; and $2.8 million in economic stabilization.
The city is also putting more than $36 million in ARPA money towards lost public sector revenue.
The spending plan also earmarks $10 million for reparations through something called the “COVID-19 Equities Program.” A committee is currently reviewing how exactly to spend that money.
“Reparations can take a lot of different shapes,” Elorza said. “We know that $10 million is not enough. We can’t right all the wrongs of the past, but we can take an important first step.”
Elorza said it remains to be seen whether direct cash payments will be part of the plan, but said he thinks the most important way to invest the money is to help build up wealth for Black families and address historic discrimination in neighborhoods where Black homeowners might have been forced to sell or were prevented from buying homes in the past.
“I’m excited about this,” he said of the reparations. “Providence is on the cutting edge of this.”