Proposed ARPA ordinance aligns with findings of robust community engagement process after directly engaging 1,500+ Providence residents
Wednesday, January 5, 2022
PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Jorge O. Elorza today proposed a $123,769,438 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) budget ordinance that builds an equitable, resilient recovery for Providence that aligns with the City’s COVID-19 Recovery and Resiliency Task Force Recommendations for Use of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Funds Report. The submission follows a robust 90-day community engagement process led by the Task Force that directly engaged over 1,500 Providence residents, business owners and community members on how to invest funds through surveys, community meetings and direct door-knocking in hard-hit ZIP codes.
“American Rescue Plan dollars represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity to truly invest in our city and our people,” said Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. “With that in mind, understanding the needs of the community – especially those most impacted by COVID-19 – was critically important to our team. I’m proud to submit this ordinance that puts equity and resilience at the forefront of Providence’s recovery process and directly addresses many of the concerns and priority areas we heard from our neighbors.”
The Mayor’s proposed ordinance allocates American Rescue Plan dollars into distinct spending categories identified through the Providence Rescue Plan survey and in alignment with recommendations made by the Task Force. In addition to allocating funding to administrative expenses and revenue recovery, residents were asked through an online and paper survey—translated into seven languages—how they would allocate $100 across the following categories: Arts, Tourism and Hospitality; Business and Economic Development; City Services and Infrastructure; Housing and Homelessness; Racial Equity; Sustainability; and Youth and Community Investments. In total, 1,111 people responded to the survey, with nearly half of the responses provided by residents from the 02907 and 02909 ZIP codes, which were disproportionately impacted by positive COVID-19 cases (24.12% and 16.38% of respondents, respectively).
“The essence of this ordinance is that it proposes a distribution of funds truly reflective of community needs,” said Oscar Mejias, Founder and CEO of the Rhode Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “There was a great effort by the members of the Task Force to conduct a community engagement process with the values of direct communication and teamwork with the residents of the city of Providence.”
In addition to surveys, the City and Task Force partnered with local community-based organizations, including NAACP Providence Branch, the Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education (ARISE), Direct Action for Rights and Equity (DARE), Latino Policy Institute (LPI) and Facilitate Change, to host community listening sessions. Task Force co-chair Oscar Mejia, Founder and CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Task Force member Kristen Adamo, President and CEO of the Providence-Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau co-hosted business roundtables that engaged over 60 small and large business owners and employees.
Addressing housing and homelessness was identified as a top priority area across all ZIP codes of respondents in the Rescue Plan survey and among residents who participated in community meetings. The proposed ARPA ordinance allocates $28,100,000 to addressing housing and homelessness, with $17,000,000 being allocated to affordable housing development and $4,000,000 allocated to expand rapid rehousing. These investments build on the ARPA allocations made in July 2021 by Mayor Elorza and the Providence City Council, which included $500,000 to address homelessness and expand street outreach and mobile diversion programs through Crossroads Rhode Island.
“I am pleased to see how this robust public engagement process informed the Mayor’s ARPA ordinance. I am especially proud of the focus on housing, because we heard and continue to hear from our residents that addressing homelessness and providing access to safe, affordable places to call home is critical as we move Providence into our recovery from the pandemic with a focus on communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and systemically excluded,” said Angela Bannerman Ankoma, MPH, MSW, Task Force Co-Chair and longtime Providence resident. “On behalf of the entire Task Force, we thank the Mayor and the City for their dedication to hearing the needs of the community to inform this investment.”
In light of the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on vulnerable and frontline communities, Mayor Elorza prioritized equity and resiliency through all funding categories identified in this ordinance. In particular, Mayor Elorza proposed $10 million for a COVID-19 Inequities Program, through which a public body would meet and provide recommendations to the City on how to address disparate impacts of COVID-19 due to structural racism and provide reparation to such individuals. Mayor Elorza also proposed $1,500,000 to support professional development and job training opportunities for individuals impacted by COVID-19, and $3 million for sustainability resiliency infrastructure in frontline communities.
With a sustainability focus, Mayor Elorza is also proposing a $14 million investment in services and amenities, as well as climate-resilient infrastructure, in Providence’s central gathering space, Greater Kennedy Plaza. Enhancements made to the city center will ensure the space is welcoming and engaging for all visitors, and support Providence’s economic recovery by revitalizing its civic hub.
“Through the American Rescue Plan, we have an opportunity to not only address challenges created and exacerbated by the pandemic, but to make sustainable, long-term infrastructure improvements to our city’s landscape,” said Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. “This is a unique opportunity to invest in Greater Kennedy Plaza as a place that connects and unites our entire city.”
Mayor Elorza’s proposed ARPA ordinance also allocated $12,170,000 to build supports for youth and community-building initiatives, including grants to community centers and support for early learning interventions. The ordinance includes $2,000,000 to support youth mentoring and youth jobs programs as part of continued investment in anti-violence strategies, building on a $2,600,000 investment made through the City’s previous ARPA funding allocation.
The Providence Rescue Plan is a combination of city and county federal funds totaling $166,314,129.10. Mayor Elorza’s proposed ARPA budget can be accessed online on the Providence Rescue Plan website and is subject to approval by the Providence City Council.