Small Business Grants Rhode Island – The announcement caps a rigorous six-month research and public input process to identify “big ideas” with long-term benefits, especially for those hardest hit by the pandemic, to guide decision-making by state leaders.
The Rhode Island Foundation has released recommendations for spending $1.1 billion in broad stimulus funding the state receives from the federal Bailout Act. The announcement comes as the Foundation and its partners complete six months of research and public input into Make It Happen: Investing for Rhode Island’s Future, which studied and analyzed options for spending federal COVID-19 recovery funding over the next three years.
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“This huge infusion of federal funding offers leaders a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to positively change the direction of the state and focus on addressing pre-existing challenges compounded by COVID-19. The recommendations we’ve outlined through Make It Happen : Investing in Rhode Island’s future has the potential to equitably address decades-long challenges, deliver benefits for all Rhode Islanders, and specifically help those most impacted by COVID-19 – Neil D. Steinberg, President and Counsel delegate of the Foundation
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The recommendations were developed with the support of the Economic Progress Institute (EPI), the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council (RIPEC), strong public input, and a diverse 15-member steering committee following a set of guiding principles focused on equity, sustainability, impact and process.
The findings will be shared with Governor Dan McKee and the Rhode Island General Assembly to inform their decisions.
“I thank the Rhode Island Foundation and its partners for contributing these recommendations to the public dialogue,” Governor Dan McKee said. “As Rhode Island emerges from a once-in-a-century public health crisis, we have a unique opportunity for a generation to build a state that is more resilient, prosperous, and equitable for all. We will closely review the recommendations put forth by the Foundation and we will evaluate them in the context of the 2030 policy framework that our administration recently published.”
“We are grateful to Neil Steinberg and the Rhode Island Foundation for their leadership efforts and collaboration with so many talented professionals to develop pertinent suggestions on how best to spend these federal funds. The House and Senate Finance Committees will carefully review all funding proposals. a very public and transparent way as we make sure our state makes the right investments for a better future.” – Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio
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The report recommends investing in six key areas: housing, behavioral health, workforce development, small businesses, neighborhood trusts, and immediate relief.
“Focused use of these funds over the allowed time period has the potential to change the lives of many Rhode Islanders. And the allocation of funding is just the first step. Planning and implementation, capacity and oversight are critical to success,” Steinberg said.
Public input included approximately 400 ideas submitted by the public via email, conversations with more than 140 people, five focus groups with Rhode Islanders from communities hardest hit by COVID, and 11 non-profit led community vision sessions at the whole state.
“The work that this very diverse steering committee did together, respecting each other’s opinions and ideas and reaching consensus was impressive and important,” Steinberg said. “Also, while there was some debate along the way, they really listened and learned from each other, taking a close look at values and priorities and taking into account the needs/ideas of all of our communities.”
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Both EPI and RIPEC contributed significant policy analysis and research and data collection efforts to make it happen, after contracting with the Foundation last spring to assist in this effort. RIPEC is a public policy research organization focused on fiscally responsible and competitive tax policies. EPI is a nonprofit research and policy organization that focuses on the impact of economic policies on low- and modest-income Rhode Islanders.
“RIPEC deeply appreciates the opportunity to work with the Institute for Economic Progress and the Rhode Island Foundation, and a distinguished and diverse group of steering committee members, in formulating recommendations for these once-in-a-generation federal funds.” said Michael DiBiase. , President and CEO of RIPEC. “The recommendations recognize the unique nature of these funds to make bold and comprehensive investments in critical areas of need that will substantially improve the quality of life in our state.”
“This has been a dynamic process. We liked working with the Foundation and RIPEC and especially the steering committee made up of people with different backgrounds and passions,” said Linda Katz, EPI Co-Founder and Policy Director. “We’re glad that equity focused on work and committee recommendations. We hope this process is an example of how we can work together to plan and implement the investments and policies necessary to ensure economic prosperity for all Rhode Islanders.”
The Make It Happen report does not examine or make recommendations for the uses of other ARPA funding buckets, such as the $542 million for local cities and towns, the $400 million for K-12 education, the $168 million for higher education and $112. million capital project funds.
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“There has to be collaboration and coordination in the use of funds between the cities and the state to achieve the best results for their residents. Similarly, while each recommendation area addresses an individual component of need, the areas are interrelated,” Steinberg said. “There should certainly be opportunities to maximize and leverage these interrelated additional investments in coordination with our recommendations.”
The goals and recommendations address the acute housing shortage in Rhode Island for decades, especially for people with low to moderate incomes.
GOALS: Provide at least 5,150 affordable housing units to Rhode Islanders by investing in affordable rental housing, permanent supportive housing, and homeownership opportunities; repair lead paint for at least 2,850 units; and renovate and/or repair code violations in at least 4,000 homes.
RECOMMENDATION 2: Invest $50 million to build 500 permanent supportive housing units and provide temporary housing for target populations.
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RECOMMENDATION 3: Invest $50 million to expand first-time homebuyer programs to increase homeownership opportunities for Black, Indigenous, and Color (BIPOC) populations and/or in areas disproportionately affected by COVID -19.
RECOMMENDATION 4: Invest $100 million for healthy home repairs, including lead paint repair and assistance to low-income homeowners and qualified homeowners to renovate substandard units for code compliance.
RECOMMENDATION 5: Invest $5 million to develop a strategic plan and improve capacity and expedite the processing of housing projects that access ARPA funds.
The goals and recommendations address the well-documented and ongoing epidemic among those struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues.
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GOALS: Decrease statewide emergency department visits by children and adults for acute behavioral health crises by 20% each; reduce the number of unintentional opioid overdoses and suicides by 15% each; Increase the number of RI-licensed outpatient mental health counselors, social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists to meet the New England behavioral health occupational average.
RECOMMENDATION 1: Invest $170 million to build new facilities and renovate and upgrade existing facilities to expand and improve services and treatment across the behavioral health care continuum.
RECOMMENDATION 2: Invest $50 million in technology infrastructure, including electronic medical records and other non-facility infrastructure, including one-off investments in mobile response and stabilization services, and technology that could increase availability and access in telemedicine.
RECOMMENDATION 3: Invest $30 million to increase provider capacity through a loan forgiveness program, as well as scholarships/bonuses, to recruit and retain behavioral health professionals. The program should target BIPOC populations to create a culturally and linguistically diverse behavioral health workforce.
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RECOMMENDATION 4: Invest $5 million to complete a strategic plan for a behavioral health care system for adults and children.
The goals and recommendations that follow are intended to address the fact that businesses of all sizes in Rhode Island face worker shortages, while many residents remain jobless or underemployed and encounter barriers to employment, such like the lack of affordable childcare.
GOALS: Provide 15,000 Rhode Islanders with high-quality jobs through sound training, adult education, workforce skills services, and the removal of barriers to employment.
RECOMMENDATION 1: Invest $150 million in high-quality “earn and learn” job training programs that lead to a promotion, certificate, academic credential, and/or higher salary.
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RECOMMENDATION 2: Invest $30 million in high-quality, accessible adult education/core workforce skills such as English, literacy, and digital skills.
RECOMMENDATION 3: Invest $15 million over one year to continue and expand the RI Reconnect initiative that provides assistance to individuals to mitigate barriers to participation in job training or a job opportunity.
RECOMMENDATION 4: Invest $10 million in IT data infrastructure improvements to the state’s longitudinal data system and support a plan for the long-term sustainability of this system.
The goals and recommendations recognize that, as the backbone of Rhode Island’s economy, small businesses need significant additional support to maintain and grow their businesses.
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GOALS: Provide significant financial assistance to at least 2,250 small businesses, targeting minority-owned businesses, through forgivable loans, low-interest loans, and grants.
RECOMMENDATION 2: Invest $35 million to provide technical support to small businesses by making one-time grants for business services through a start-up business resource network.
RECOMMENDATION 3: Invest $10 million to create a new Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) or expand the capacity of one or more existing CDFIs to provide financing for projects in distressed and underserved neighborhoods in Rhode Island.