As the General Assembly considers a return to Smith Hill and students come back to the classroom, RIPEC provides you with an update on major public policy developments in the Ocean State.
RIPEC on Public Policy
- RIPEC continues to support the Rhode Island Foundation initiative, Make It Happen: Investing in Rhode Island’s Future, assisting a 15-member steering committee in developing recommendations for the state’s investment of $1.1 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding. RIPEC and the Economic Progress Institute have partnered to conduct dozens of interviews with community organizations and review hundreds of public submissions to identify areas where the federal funds can be used to make a lasting impact. The initiative is currently on track to publish a report with final recommendations this fall.
- WPRI 12, “Nesi’s Notes: August 28 (#4)”
- The Public’s Radio, “How Will RI decide to spend $1.1B in American Rescue Plan money?”
- RIPEC President and CEO Michael DiBiase is one of 11 members of a working group convened by Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza to address the city’s long-term financial challenges, including its $1.2 billion unfunded pension liability. The working group is meeting bi-weekly to receive briefings on the capital city’s finances and begin considering structural reforms.
- The Public’s Radio, “Special Roundtable: Elorza on Providence (@12:00)”
- Governor Dan McKee’s administration has already begun to assemble a budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2023, which begins July 1, 2022. In a letter this month to state agencies, McKee outlined his budget priorities, including “supporting small businesses that drive Rhode Island’s economy and create jobs; improving education and child care systems; [and] ensuring that equity is a guiding principle.” Current estimates show that McKee and state lawmakers could face a budget deficit of over $200 million.
- Detailed results from the 2020 U.S. Census were released in August, giving insight into the demographic changes and population shifts underway nationwide. The statewide data show that Rhode Island’s population is growing more diverse and concentrating in the state’s urban core. Lawmakers will now use the census data to re-draw the boundaries of Rhode Island’s two congressional districts, as well as state legislative districts.
- The National Conference of State Legislatures is maintaining a searchable database that tracks how each state is allocating their American Rescue Plan Act funds. The database reveals common areas of focus among states, including housing, workforce development, and broadband infrastructure. According to the database, Rhode Island is the only New England state that has not yet spent any of its ARPA funds.
What to Look for in September
- Rhode Island’s K-12 students are returning to schools statewide after districts took varying approaches to in-person learning in the 2020-21 school year. While Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green stressed that districts need to have contingency plans in place for remote schooling, state and local officials emphasized the need for full-time in-person learning. In an analysis published last fall, RIPEC reported that, overall, educational outcomes for students engaged in virtual learning are worse than those receiving in-person instruction, and that Rhode Island students from low-income communities were less likely to receive in-person instruction than their peers from higher-income areas.
- General Assembly leaders have not yet ruled out the possibility of a fall legislative session to address unresolved policy issues, including proposals to spend Rhode Island’s allotment of federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act.