RI Foundation: Use federal COVID aid to build homes, not to fix Superman Building

The state needs to correction issues residents faced long before the COVID-19 pandemic, the foundation’s president and CEO said

By Alexa Gagosz Globe Staff,Updated October 19, 2021, 9:30 a.m.

PROVIDENCE — Lawmakers in Rhode island are about to meet in committee hearings to develop ways in which Governor Dan McKee’s administration can spend the state’s $1.13 billion in federal dollars. Many observers have called it a “once in a lifetime” opportunity, and Neil Steinberg, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation, says it needs to be used to help correct issues the state faced long before COVID-19.

“In the beginning of the pandemic, there was a lot of talk about getting back to the ‘old normal.’ We pushed back on that because the ‘old normal’ left too many people behind,” Steinberg said as he unveiled the Foundation’s recommendations on how to use the state’s American Rescue Plan Act funds Monday night.

Earlier this year, the Foundation contracted with the Economic Progress Institute (EPI) and the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council (RIPEC) and convened a 15-member Steering Committee to develop a set of spending recommendations.

The Steering Committee included Marcela Betancur, executive director of the Latino Policy Institute; Jessica David, founder and principal at Good Worth Working For; Marie Ganim, Rhode Island’s former Health Insurance Commissioner; Ross Gittell, Bryant University president; Tony Maione, former CEO and president of the United Way of Rhode Island; and Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency medicine professor and associate dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health; among others.