As debate on spending federal funds heats up and the state budget outlook comes into focus, RIPEC brings you an update on major public policy developments in the Ocean State.
RIPEC on Public Policy
- Thank you to those that tuned in to RIPEC’s 78th Annual Meeting this week. Governor Daniel J. McKee, Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio, and House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi spoke to members about the outlook for spending federal funds and the state’s economic recovery. There was also a lively discussion about current affairs between Mara Liasson, Political Analyst for FOX News and National Correspondent for NPR, and Ian Donnis of The Public’s Radio. The event culminated with RIPEC’s Public Service Awards, which were presented to Frank J. Karpinski and William Fazioli.
- The Rhode Island Foundation’s Make It Happen: Investing in Rhode Island’s Future initiative released a report with detailed recommendations for how Rhode Island should spend its $1.1 billion in flexible American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. RIPEC partnered with the Economic Progress Institute to support the initiative over the past six months, including participation in over 60 stakeholder interviews. The report recommended that the funds be used across housing, behavioral health, workforce development, small business, neighborhood trusts, and for immediate relief.
- WPRI 12, “RI Foundation panel sees housing, mental health, training as best uses of $1.1 billion federal windfall”
- The Providence Journal, “RI Foundation: Use federal COVID aid to build homes, not to fix Superman Building”
- In partnership with the Bryant University Center for Global and Regional Economic Studies, RIPEC published its debut issue of the Key Performance Indicators Quarterly Briefing. The briefing compiles key measures of economic growth, consumer demand, and labor market conditions in Rhode Island and offers regional and national comparisons. The Q3 data show that the Ocean State continues to recover from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the state is still 26,400 jobs below its pre-pandemic level.
- Providence Business News, “RIPEC, Bryant report shows improved state economic outlook in Q3”
- Providence Business Journal, “RI economy makes Q3 gains, but still 26k jobs below pre-pandemic levels”
- The annual November Revenue and Caseload Estimating Conferences are underway. Executive branch officials testified that applications for some cash assistance programs are increasing as federal unemployment benefits expire. Additionally, analytics firm IHS Markit projected that Rhode Island will not reach its pre-pandemic level of non-farm employment until FY 2024.
- Results from the Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System tests administered last spring to students in grades 3-8 show a significant decrease in proficiency among students at all grade levels compared to 2019. State Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green said the results showed that students who attended school primarily in person fared better than those attending virtually. RIPEC’s analysis from October 2020 showed that students in low-performing schools were experiencing greater disruptions to in-person schooling than their peers.
What to Look for in November
- RIPEC President and CEO Michael DiBiase is serving on a Senate Study Commission that is seeking to recommend improvements to the state’s administration of health and human services programs.
- Both Rhode Island House and Senate finance committees are holding hearings on proposals for spending Rhode Island’s $1.1 billion in flexible ARPA funds, including the recommendations from the Rhode Island Foundation’s Make It Happen Initiative. RIPEC President and CEO Michael DiBiase will testify, alongside other initiative partners, before the Senate Finance Committee on November 10 to discuss the recommendations.