Politics & Elections

Political Coop rallies at State House to demand action on unspent federal funds

“We are here because we got money eight months ago that is just sitting [there],” said Damián Lima, a community activist and candidate for General Assembly. “People are being evicted from their homes. People are losing services, while money just sits there. We’re here because we know that money can help folks.”
Photo for Political Coop rallies at State House to demand action on unspent federal funds

Published on November 16, 2021
By Steve Ahlquist

The Rhode Island Political Cooperative held a rally on Saturday demanding that the Rhode Island General Assembly begin spending some of the $1.13 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to “begin to address our economic, public health, education, and climate crises.” Rhode Island remains the only state with a Democratically controlled legislature to not have spent any of the federal funds. Governor Daniel McKee‘s plan to spend ten percent of the funds, mostly on supporting and buttressing businesses, may be taken up by the State Senate, but the Coop counters that “10% of the ARPA money cannot address the crisis we’re in” and that the state needs “a plan to spend our full $1.13 billion” and “a special session to start spending it now.” The Coop also demands that the money be spent “rescuing our communities.”

Seven people spoke at the rally before cutting it short due to thunderstorms.

“We are here because we got money eight months ago that is just sitting [there],” said Damián Lima, a community activist and candidate for General Assembly. “People are being evicted from their homes. People are losing services, while money just sits there. We’re here because we know that money can help folks.”

“For years we have been coming here and they have said, ‘No,'” said gubernatorial candidate and former Secretary of State Matt Brown. “And when they’ve said ‘No’ they’ve always given the same reason. ‘There’s not enough money, so we have to make tough choices.’ Now they’ve got piles of money… But still they don’t look out for our people. So now we know without a doubt, that all those years that they told us they couldn’t look out for the people because there wasn’t enough money – That was a fucking lie.”

“I am not here today to beg,” said Mike Neimeyer, a candidate for Senate District 38. Neimeyer recently wrote this oped for UpriseRI about the medical needs of his daughter. “I send before this State House with a simple demand of our leaders: Do your jobs! Protect our children. Use these ARPA funds as if it were your children who depended on these programs, because this state is home to thousands of families suffering the quiet indignities of this broken system. If I were our leaders, I wouldn’t count on that silence lasting much longer.”

“My dad was forced to go to bed in a tent, cold, so he could survive in this state and I couldn’t help him,” said Arianna Cunha, a young climate activist and hub coordinator for Sunrise RI Youth, reflecting on her father’s homelessness when she was in elementary school. “But you, Governor McKee, Senator Ruggerio and Representative Shekarchi, can. You can help the thousands of people struggling to afford housing in our communities. You can lead lead the nation in addressing the limit crisis… You can help the hundreds of families desperately needing life-saving health care in this state. You have the funds to protect thousands of children from lead poisoning…”

“What I’m asking for is for the state to give a damn,” said Harrison Tuttle, executive director of the Black Lives Matter Rhode Island PAC and candidate for General Assembly. “… because there are a thousand people, tonight, that will be homeless, out on the street. Under Dan McKee’s administration homelessness has grown[by] six times…” See also: Homelessness advocates erect tents on the State House lawn to be noticed

“We are in a state of emergency for Those Island’s homeless population,” said Terri Hodge, a community and housing advocate and organizer with DARE (Direct Action for Rights and Equality). “Why hasn’t that been declared by our Governor? I’ll declare it. We are in a state of emergency for our homeless population.”

“80 percent of housing in Rhode Island was built prior to lead being banned,” said Andrew Poyant, an environmental scientist and candidate for Providence City Council. “Between the federal infrastructure bill and ARPA money, we can and must, replace all lead water pipes, and reduce lead paint exposure, and make yards, contaminated with lead soil, safer for children.” For more on this idea, see: Advocates launch campaign to end lead in Rhode Island’s water forever

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