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Rhode Island cities, towns make plans to spend federal virus aid funds

PROVIDENCE (AP) — Affordable housing, a full-time harbormaster, and an ice rink are just some of the things that cities and towns in Rhode Island have proposed paying for with federal coronavirus relief funding.

But at least 19 towns have yet to spend a single dollar, The Providence Journal reported Friday after asking officials in all 39 municipalities in the state how they’ve used the money so far, and what projects are under consideration.

The communities are on track to receive a total of nearly $537 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds, the newspaper reported, citing data provided by the office of General Treasurer Seth Magaziner. The first installment has already been distributed.

Providence, the capital and largest city, is getting the biggest chunk, more than $166 million. New Shoreham, the only town on Block Island, is getting the smallest slice, about $307,000.

Pawtucket has set aside $400,000 of its ARPA funds to purchase a vacant medical office building, which the city intends to convert into affordable housing. South Kingstown is paying $180,000 for a full-time harbormaster for two years. Woonsocket has proposed spending $250,000 for a year-round skating rink with synthetic ice.

Nearly every town that has started spending the money or is making plans to do so said their top priorities include infrastructure projects such as replacing outdated sewer and water connections or repaving roads.

Bristol has already decided to spend 99% of the money on infrastructure projects, most aimed at addressing flooding.

Many of the 19 towns that have not spent or allocated any money told the newspaper that they were waiting to get more public input before making any decisions.

Cities and towns have until the end of 2024 to decide how to spend the money, and all expenditures have to take place by the end of 2026.



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