Raimondo wants to hire new official to manage federal COVID-19 funding

Politics - Government

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Gina Raimondo is setting up a new Pandemic Recovery Office to manage how Rhode Island spends over $1 billion in federal coronavirus funding.

The new office came to light in a job posting published by the R.I. Department of Administration, seeking applicants to serve as a new deputy director at the Office of Management and Budget who would lead the coronavirus oversight office. The job would pay between $146,655 and $162,031.

The job posting describes the Pandemic Recovery Office as “the statewide office for policy coordination, compliance, legal advice, and public information for the state’s use of federal funds to address and recover from the effects of COVID19 pandemic.” The office’s director would also serve as a liaison to the congressional delegation and the National Governors Association.

Rhode Island has received at least $1.8 billion in federal funding related to COVID-19 since March 4, according to a tally by Target 12, much of it designated for specific uses. By far the largest chunk of money is $1.25 billion from the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund, an allocation secured in part by U.S. Sen. Jack Reed that can be used for any expenses related to the pandemic.

Amanda Clarke, a Department of Administration spokesperson, said the new Pandemic Recovery Office is modeled on the Office of Economic Recovery and Reinvestment that then-Gov. Don Carcieri created during the Great Recession to oversee Rhode Island’s funding from the Obama stimulus law.

“The state has received more than a billion [dollars] in federal aid that must be expended by the end of the calendar year, [and] ensuring we spend these funds transparently and within time constraints is critical to the state’s response efforts,” Clarke told WPRI 12 in an email.

The Pandemic Recovery Office director’s salary would be covered with federal funding, according to Clarke, and the job would expire on June 30, 2021.

The Raimondo administration has already brought back Jeremy Licht, the governor’s former senior legal counsel, as a temporary consultant to help oversee federal COVID-19 funding. Licht has been on loan from his day job at Johnson & Wales University, and the school is being paid about $45,000 for his services from April 6 through June 27, according to data reviewed by WPRI 12.

Clarke said some of the Pandemic Recovery Office director’s proposed responsibilities are currently being performed by Licht.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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