As policymakers negotiate a final budget for FY2023 and institute a plan for spending the entirety of Rhode Island’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) State Fiscal Recovery Funds (SFRF), we find ourselves at a critical juncture. If nothing changes, we are likely to spend the state’s ARPA SFRF in a scattershot manner, funding lots of small projects, but spreading the money too thinly and failing to usher in transformative or equity-centered change.
With budget negotiations already underway, it appears increasingly unlikely that all ARPA spending will be reconsidered in the context of equity and transformation, two principles guiding the Rhode Island Foundation’s Make it Happen Steering Committee and its October 2021 report (https://rifoundation.org/community-investments/make-it-happen-investing-in-rhode-islands-future). Therefore, we think that a good outcome could be achieved by shifting some ARPA SFRF to items that both embrace transformation and center equity. The funds for these projects could be made available by finding alternative funding for some ARPA budget proposals not advancing these dual goals.
Among the Governor’s budget proposals to be funded by ARPA State Fiscal Recovery Funds, we have identified close to $300 million in spending on projects which are not focused on equity and/or transformation. We can repurpose these ARPA funds towards paying for the transformational and equity-centered proposals identified below.