East Providence awaits details on American Rescue Plan Act funds

City is reported to be receiving $19 million of state’s share

By Mike Rego
Posted 4/9/21

EAST PROVIDENCE — East Providence will get a portion of the $1.78 billion earmarked for Rhode Island through the American Rescue Plan Act recently passed by Congress and signed into law by …

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East Providence awaits details on American Rescue Plan Act funds

City is reported to be receiving $19 million of state’s share

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — East Providence will get a portion of the $1.78 billion earmarked for Rhode Island through the American Rescue Plan Act recently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden, but how much exactly and what it can be used for still remain undetermined.

The City Council, at its April 6 meeting, was provided a wide-ranging update on the situation by designees from Mayor Bob DaSilva’s staff, Finance Director Malcolm Moore and Director of Administration Napolean Gonsalves.

As outlined by members of the Rhode Island Congressional delegation, the state and local government aid includes an estimated $1.12 billion for the state, $113 million for critical state capital projects in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and $542 million in general assistance to cities and towns.

In some quarters, East Providence’s share has been projected to be in the neighborhood of $19 million.

The six largest municipalities in the state are estimated to receive large portions: Providence $131 million, Pawtucket $46 million, Woonsocket $33 million, Cranston $27 million and Warwick $24 million followed by East Providence.

Mr. Moore said he couldn’t corroborate the figure associated to East Providence, nor as of yet was he able to say how the city would be able to allocate the funds it does get.

He did tell the council the city is anticipating a deficit in revenue streams brought on by the pandemic to be in the range of $1.9 million for the next fiscal year, including some $800,000 in uncollected residential, commercial and tangible taxes.

Mr. Moore added the city expects to eventually receive a significant amount of those monies from taxes and other income streams, though some, like reimbursements for the East Providence Fire Department’s emergency medical services, can’t be made up.

Indications, however, from federal and local officials show states and municipalities will be allowed to use portions of the latest stimulus to replace budgetary shortfalls, including lost revenue.

Unlike the previous batch of COVID-19 federal monies in the CARES Act approved last year, Mr. Gonsalves said municipalities will be given immediate access to those in American Rescue Plan Act, according to new Governor Dan McKee. A critique of former Governor Gina Raimondo was her decision for the state to hold the bulk of the federal funds, dispersing them as her administration saw fit and necessary.

“We’re going to get the money through the state, but the state is going to be directed to release the money towards us,” Mr. Gonsalves said. “Governor McKee has assured us it will be a lot more transparent, they’ll be a lot more money towards us, but like Malcolm was saying we’re waiting on the guidance. They kind of gave us a broad idea, but they’re not committing to simply what we can use it for.”

Mr. Gonsalves continued, “It’s very preliminary. There are a lot of questions being asked not only by the city, but also other administrations around the state in regards to how it will be allocated, what are the rules governing it, so it’s very preliminary right now. We kind of have a rough idea what they’re going to give us, but there still isn’t a whole lot of guidance.”

Ward 3 Councilor Nate Cahoon, an employee of federal government himself, acknowledged the often vast considerations put on how the appropriations can be spent, but like his peers urged local administrators to engage his body on its plans, especially as the Fiscal Year 2021-22 budget season approaches later this summer and into the fall.

“I’ve spent my life managing federal money and I’ve never seen a federal penny that doesn’t have an instruction manual associated with it. So I expect we will get something similar,” Mr. Cahoon said.

The American Rescue Plan Act was proposed and approved with an array of intentions in response to the pandemic, from giving states and municipalities money to safely reopen schools and businesses as the pandemic lingers, to supporting unemployment benefits and small business loans, to assisting homeowners pay their mortgages.

All of those things would be have a direct effect on residents of East Providence. The city is facing the need to retrofit some of its aging school and municipal buildings with modern HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems. Pending water and other infrastructure matters have also been of recent concern.

“So it’s good news for the city that we are expecting $20 million,” said Ward 3 Councilor Ricardo Mourato. “We just have to figure out where that money can go and used responsibly to plug in some of these budget shortfalls. Hopefully the council has a say in that and is up to date on what those parameters are.”

Added Ward 1 member and Council President Bob Britto, “I don’t want to put the cart before the horse. Let’s let the money come in and we can discuss it then.”

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