McKee says now is the time to start spending $ 1.1 billion in COVID aid

Gov. Dan McKee said Rhode Island had stuck on its $ 1.1 billion federal COVID aid too long and wanted to start spending some of it on small business aid, housing and housing. child care.

Rhode Island is the only northeastern state to have spent no part of the US bailout money, which Congress passed in March, and McKee is trying to get key lawmakers to spend some of the money. ‘money for months.

On Tuesday, he wrote an op-ed in the Journal calling for the General Assembly to free the purse strings for at least a first wave of spending to meet immediate needs.

He continued in a general briefing with reporters, saying “we don’t want to chase after the economic recovery”.

Following:Opinion / McKee: Investing Federal Funds in Small Business, Child Care and Affordable Housing

Following:With $ 1.1 billion in the bank, RI is the only New England state not to touch its bailout money

McKee said he hopes lawmakers will allow him to spend 10% of the state’s general bailout money – about $ 110 million – by the end of the year. The remaining 90% could be allocated for the longer term, he said.

McKee called his plan to use some of the bailout money at the “concept” stage, with his team still fleshing out the details of how it would be distributed and to whom.

But he said small businesses, especially in the hospitality industry, can’t wait for help.

His plan would give them new “financial and technical assistance” to adjust to COVID similar to the Take It Outside program of the start of the pandemic.

He also wants “global business support, upgrades to e-commerce and other technologies, improvements to the facade and streetscape of Main Street stores, as well as the recruitment and training of the workforce.” artwork “.

After the briefing, Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor said that part of the short-term small business assistance program would likely absorb half of the initial $ 110 million.

Of the approximately $ 55 million remaining, he did not have a breakdown of how much would go to housing and child care.

To increase access to child care, McKee offers “premium retention bonuses” for more than 8,500 workers and covers start-up costs for new home child care providers.

McKee’s wants to use federal money to build “hundreds of affordable housing units” and “acquire properties to support housing development,” according to its editorial. He also wants to “provide assistance with the payment of a down payment for disadvantaged households”, revitalize “dilapidated properties” and propose a plan for universal broadband.

Job n ° 1: shelter the homeless

Speaking to reporters, McKee said her priority was to house the homeless.

“We should have worked a few months earlier on homelessness and other housing issues that we can create a long term strategy, but for now the priority I see is the 336 people living in the street and the 200 people in our hotels and 700 other people in shelters. “

McKee’s call for further spending came the same day the House and Senate began hearings on what to do with the $ 1.1 billion, and he reached out to Speaker of the House K Joseph Shekarchi and Senate Speaker Dominick Ruggerio earlier in the morning to share his thoughts.

“We look forward to verifying the governor’s proposals,” Shekarchi and Ruggerio said in a joint statement in response to McKee’s editorial. “As we begin to explore the best ways to invest this federal funding with the House and Senate hearings today, we are committed to a vigorous, open and transparent public process.

Later in the day, Representative Carlos Tobon, chairman of the House Rescue Task Force, said he expected to meet to discuss what to do with the money during three to five months.

The basic rules set out

In a presentation, House Tax Advisor Sharon Reynolds Ferland outlined the federal rules and categories on which the money can be spent, which includes at least $ 400 million to directly replace tax revenue from the State and prevent cuts in services. States are not supposed to use this money to cut taxes, give retirement bonuses, or fill the fund on rainy days.

In addition to the $ 1.1 billion, Rhode Island will also receive $ 112 million for capital projects.

States have until the end of 2024 to allocate Rescue Act funds and the end of 2026 to spend them.

The Senate Finance Committee heard a presentation from the National Conference of State Legislatures on what other states are doing with their bailout money.

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By the numbers

IR cases: 169,686 (336 reported Tuesday)

Negative IR tests: 4,953,887 (11,588 reported Tuesday; 2.8% positive rate)

COVID-related deaths in RI: 2,816 (1 reported Tuesday)

Rhode Islanders hospitalized with COVID: 124 (22 in intensive care)

Fully vaccinated in IR: 705,917 (772,187 at least partially vaccinated)

Mass cases: 795,543

Mass. COVID-related deaths: 18,455

US cases: 42,328,527

COVID-related deaths in the United States: 677,099


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