PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Dan McKee unveiled a budget amendment on Thursday outlining his plan to invest 10% of the state’s $1.13 billion in the American Rescue Plan State Fiscal Recovery Funds into the state’s economic comeback.
The governor, along with Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos and members of his cabinet, made remarks at a press conference outside the State House.
McKee’s budget amendment includes short-term investments in Rhode Island’s families, workers, and small businesses. His budget amendment proposes investing $32 million in the future of the state’s small businesses and impacted industries.
- $12.5 million for direct grants to provide immediate financial support to small businesses affected by the pandemic with the aim of delivering 20% of these funds to minority owned businesses
- $10.5 million for technical assistance to support businesses in capacity building and
- upgrading technical infrastructure
- $7.5 million for increasing outdoor activities, maintaining clean and safe business districts, and for public health improvements like HEPA filters and ventilation
- $1.5 million for outreach, reporting, compliance, and administration
“We’re writing Rhode Island’s next chapter now,” McKee said. “National assessments show that Rhode Island is, for once, a leading state as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. If we invest soon and invest wisely, we can continue to lead rather than follow, creating opportunities for Rhode Islanders as a result.”
According to the governor’s office, the state reported a 7.5% increase in real gross domestic product in the second quarter of 2021, exceeding the growth rates of the country and the New England region.
Rhode Island has also ranked among the top ten states nationally and led the Northeast in Moody’s Back-to-Normal economic recovery index for the last several months. Most recently, Rhode Island ranked fourth in the nation and first in the region.
R.I. Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor says despite the positive growth in the state, there are still significant needs, and hard-hit industries need help as the colder weather approaches.
“We need to make near-term investments in order to protect and support our small businesses and hardest-hit industries,” Pryor said.
VIDEO NOW: Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos remarks on plan to use federal money (Story continues below.)
McKee’s budget amendment also invests $13 million in federal funds to support the recovery of the travel, tourism, and events industries. Of this amount:
- $8 million will provide direct grants to support tourism, hospitality/travel, sports/recreation, arts/cultural and event businesses that either could not take advantage of previous opportunities for federal funding or require additional assistance
- $3 million will be used to fund sub-awards to intermediaries (including municipalities, chambers of commerce, business improvement districts, etc.) for placemaking initiatives (e.g., public art installations, main street improvements, public or co-shared dining spaces, outdoor performance venues, etc.), existing catalytic events, and the development of COVID-safe programming
- $2 million will fund tourism marketing to be coordinated with the tourism regions and the Rhode Island Airport Corporation
The governor’s down payment plan also calls for investing $38.5 million in children, families, and social supports. This includes:
- $13 million to provide retention bonuses to supplement baseline wages for over 8,200 childcare workers, as well as assistance to new family child care providers entering a market that needs expanded capacity
- $12.7 million to provide retention bonuses of $1,000 per child care educator every six months, up to $2,000 annually per recipient to full- and part-time staff of state-licensed child care providers in FY 2022. These bonuses are intended to increase attraction and retention of staff in the child care field as well as recognize the ongoing efforts of this frontline workforce
- $300,000 would provide startup grants to cover some initial costs and in-depth technical assistance to providers seeking to open new family child care sites
- $12.5 million to provide workforce stabilization payments to the direct care and supporting direct care staff of the service provider organizations contracted by the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF). These funds will provide for one-time (FY 2022 only) supplemental wage payments
- $7.5 million for pediatric relief programming, which would provide for stabilization grants and a pay-for-success program to pediatric primary care practices to retain staff, implement extended hours, conduct enhanced outreach, and bring on additional family supports, such as social workers, to address the crisis and ensure all families are caught up on care
- $5.5 million in federal funds for the purpose of assisting Early Intervention providers to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic, recruit and retain workers, avoid further closures, and provide continued services to children with developmental needs
- $4.5 million would be used to provide immediate stabilization grants
- $1 million would provide performance-based bonuses
“High quality, safe childcare is essential to the wellbeing of children and their families. Unfortunately the childcare industry has been hit hard by the pandemic and is struggling to attract and retain workers, due to low wages driven by a longstanding lack of public investment,” McKee said.
McKee said in speaking with members of the childcare industry on Wednesday, the staffing crisis was noted as a major concern.
“Whatever we’ve put forward has not been enough to get them through this crisis that we’re in right now.,” McKee said. “They’re not able to serve the number of kids they have and they’re very stressed, in terms of their employment.”
The governor’s budget amendment proposal also includes $29.5 million for affordable housing and housing stability supports. The governor’s down payment plan would invest:
- $15 million to incentivize the development and renovation of affordable housing, targeted at assisting individuals with an income below 80% of area median income
- $12 million for a property acquisition grant program, which would provide for a grant program administered by Rhode Island Housing to finance the acquisition of properties for redevelopment as affordable and supportive housing
- $1.5 million for housing stability, dedicated to expanded housing navigation, stabilization, and mental health services for families and individuals experiencing homelessness
- $500,000 for the purpose of temporary contract staffing support at the Office of Housing and Community Development. The governor’s proposal says these funds would provide for contract positions for an estimated six-month period focusing on areas like research and data, stakeholder engagement, and a dedicated program director for homelessness programs
- $500,000 for broadband coordination and planning. The money would allow the state to conduct mapping analysis, hire a broadband coordinator, and develop strategic planning to govern future investments.
VIDEO NOW: Gov. McKee, state officials take questions from reporters. (Story continues below.)
The supplemental budget needs approval from the R.I. General Assembly. Earlier Thursday, a joint statement was released from Ruggerio and Shekarchi, noting the House and Senate began hearings on how to spend federal ARPA funds two weeks ago.
“Our fiscal staffs will review the Governor’s proposal submitted today, followed by a vigorous public review by our finance committees,” the joint statement wrote. “This will include consideration of the merits of the expenditures, the urgency of the need, and anticipated recommendations from other groups who have been studying the best use of these funds.”
12 News obtained a copy of a letter the governor sent to Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and Speaker of the House K. Joseph Shekarchi, which notes how his administration has been holding conversations with community stakeholders about how to ensure long-term growth as well.
“In addition to housing, small business and childcare, we’ve discussed the need to invest federal funds and to address infrastructure, climate change, equity, public health, education and more,” McKee wrote. “We look forward to submitting an allocation plan for the remaining ARPA State Fiscal Recovery Funds in our FY 2023 budget in January.”