Federal, state, and local leaders held a press conference at the Dunkin’ Donuts Arena today and outlined ways Rhode Island is slated to benefit from the COVID relief package that the United States House passed early Saturday morning. The legislation includes $1,400 survival checks to put money in the pockets of working people, expanded unemployment benefits, a pay raise for nearly 30 million people, and nearly $1.7b in relief for Rhode Island state and local government.
“This virus has wreaked havoc on our country and has created an economic crisis and a public health crisis for families all across America, including here in Rhode Island. More than 500,000 Americans have now died, including 2,500 Rhode Islanders. Millions have lost their jobs and small businesses have closed their doors,” said United States Representative David Cicilline (Democrat RI). “Democrats promised to deliver the relief the American people need. We are making good on that promise. It’s critical that the Senate send this bill to President Biden‘s desk as soon as possible.”
“Too many Americans are suffering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ‘American Rescue Plan’ is the bold response this crisis requires to get desperately needed help to them,” said United States Representative James Langevin (Democrat RI). “In addition to the direct payments of $1,400 to more Americans including adult dependents, the more than $2b in state and local aid for Rhode Island and funding for robust testing and vaccination efforts will help save lives, keep essential services running, and help struggling families and communities recover. We are seeing progress in our fight against COVID-19, but more work remains, and this package will provide us the resources and support to turn the corner. I will continue to work diligently with my colleagues to ensure the Ocean State can overcome this emergency and come out stronger.”
“Providing direct, flexible aid to cities is the most equitable and efficient way to help Rhode Islanders and our communities who have suffered for far too long,” said Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza. “As the economic engines of our country, cities will be relied upon to lead the long-term economic recovery our nation so desperately needs, even as, with few exceptions, local governments have been largely left without direct federal assistance. The $350 billion in direct relief to state and local governments included in President Biden’s American Rescue Plan would allow cities to preserve critical public sector jobs and create a foundation for sustainable and inclusive recovery.”
President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which the House passed last Saturday, delivers $1.9t and leverages the full force of the federal government to take on this crisis. Among the direct benefits to Rhode Island are:
- Nearly $1.7b in state and local aid to keep frontline workers on the job as we roll out the vaccine and build back our economy.
- More than $1.1b goes to the State of Rhode Island, with the rest going to municipalities. Providence will receive $132m.
- Another round of survival checks – $422b in total – to put money directly in the pockets of working people.
- Last summer, the first round of stimulus payments provided roughly $900m to 560k Rhode Islanders. This round will be more generous because it includes benefits for adult dependents. So a family of four under the income threshold could receive $5,600.
- $437m to help Rhode Island’s K-12 schools reopen safely and address the impact of the pandemic on their well-being.
- $180m for Rhode Island colleges and universities, at least half of which has to go directly to students who are at risk of going hungry or homeless as a result of the pandemic.
- $93m for child care in Rhode Island, so more working moms and dads can get back to their office when it’s safe to do so.
- $3m for kids and families on Head Start.
- Expanded and extended unemployment benefits for the 76,000 Rhode Islanders who received supplemental assistance last week. It extends these benefits through August and raises the federal benefit from $300 per week to $400.
- Expanding eligibility for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to non-profits of all sizes. This measure also increases Paycheck Protection Program funding and allocates additional funds for targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan advances, both of which have been vital lifelines for Rhode Island small businesses, providing over $2.6b in disaster assistance through more than 28k loans and grants in 2020.
- The creation of a new Restaurant Revitalization Fund that will provide direct aid to bars and restaurants. Rhode Island’s restaurant industry employed more than 45,000 workers before the pandemic. Restaurant owners here in Rhode Island and across America will have the opportunity to apply for $25b in funding that the bill provides.
- New resources for homeowners and renters struggling to make their monthly payments. This bill includes an estimated $152m for emergency rental assistance to Rhode Island and an estimated $40m to the state through the Homeowner Assistance Fund.
The bill also gives minimum wage earners their first pay raise in more than a decade – a move that would benefit more than 100,000 Rhode Islanders – more than one out of every five workers in the state. [But that provision will likely not make it past the United States Senate.]
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (Democrat NY) has said that the relief bill passed by the House is on track to reach President Joe Biden’s desk by March 14th.