Providence, RI (STL.News) Governor Dan McKee marks 1 year in office with a series of community visits and announcements including launching a new RI Rebounds grant program to support hospitality and tourism businesses impacted by the pandemic; emphasizing the importance of reading and education to local students; and touring new affordable housing units built with crucial funding from the State.
“Every single day over the past year, it has been a privilege to serve Rhode Islanders in all 39 cities and towns as Governor,” said Governor Dan McKee. “Together, we’ve made incredible progress on the goals we set on our first day in office: Getting shots in arms, restarting our economy, helping Rhode Islanders get back to work, and getting kids safely back in the classroom where they learn best. Thanks to the strength and resiliency of Rhode Islanders, we have the momentum to build on that progress and emerge from this pandemic stronger than we went in – let’s make it happen.”
Here’s a look at the Administration’s first year and what’s next.
Leading the nation in COVID-19 response
What we’ve done
– With over 2 million total vaccines administered in Rhode Island, the state is #1 in the nation for percent of population fully vaccinated and #3 in the nation for percent of population with a booster shot according to the New York Times COVID-19 data tracker.
– Rhode Island was one of the first 10 states in the nation to beat President Biden’s vaccination goal.
– Rhode Island is tied for #1 in the nation for vaccinating our seniors due in large part to our partnership with municipal leaders to hold local, accessible clinics in the early days of the pandemic.
– Thanks in large part to Rhode Islanders rolling up their sleeves to get vaccinated and boosted, the state was able to navigate the Omicron surge and is now seeing a strong decrease in cases (down 98% since the January peak) and hospitalizations (down 79% since the January peak).
– With the support of our cities and towns and community organizations, by the end of the week, Rhode Island will have distributed over 2 million free COVID-19 at-home rapid tests to residents.
Where we’re going
– As we begin a strategic transition from managing COVID-19 as a pandemic to an endemic, Rhode Island is doubling down on boosters with our eyes set on reaching #1 in the nation. The team is currently working with faith-based leaders to host booster clinics in places of worship and is sending health canvassers to encourage vaccines and boosters in under-vaccinated communities. We’re also continuing to increase the accessibility of vaccines for students by launching a strategic effort in several hard-hit communities to host a vaccination clinic in every school with a vaccination rate under 20%.
Strengthening Rhode Island’s economic rebound
What we’ve done
– Rhode Island is ranked #1 in the Northeast according to the CNN/Moody’s “Back to Normal Index,” a multi-factor ranking system which tracks America’s recovery. We delivered RI Rebounds, a $119 million economic recovery package that strategically invests federal funds to support housing, small businesses, child care and more.
– We stepped up for small businesses. Through the Rhode Island Small Business Relief Grant Program and the RI Rebounds Grant Program, our Administration has allocated over $30 million in direct COVID-19 relief grants to assist thousands of small businesses impacted by the pandemic.
– We sped up the State’s RentReliefRI program and provided Rhode Islanders with over $125 million in rental assistance. We also launched a $50 million homeowner assistance fund to help families struggling to pay their mortgage payments and housing-related expenses due to the pandemic.
– We helped Rhode Islanders get back to work by launching a first-in-the-nation 401 Works program which helped boost income for 1,200 workers during the most difficult days of the pandemic.
– We saved local employers an estimated $60 million by taking executive actions to prevent an increase in their unemployment insurance taxes.
– We’re putting federal infrastructure dollars to work with a comprehensive plan to expedite the repair of over 100 roads and bridges across the state.
– We submitted a fiscally responsible FY 23 budget with no broad-based tax increases that provides tax relief for many vehicle owners, small businesses and veterans.
– We launched RI 2030, a comprehensive and inclusive effort to develop a vision for a more resilient, prosperous, and equitable state.
Where we’re going
– We’re focused on a meaningful and strategic investment of American Rescue Plan funds, state general revenue and state surplus funds to help strengthen and sustain our economic recovery and put Rhode Island on a path to increase per capita income for families across our state. We’re proposing a historic $250 million investment in housing and supports for those experiencing homelessness; a $200 million investment in economic and workforce development; a $150 million investment to combat climate change and support Rhode Island’s blue economy and much more.
Supporting children, families and education
What we’ve done
– Through RI Rebounds, we’re investing $18.7 million to provide retention bonuses to supplement baseline wages for over 6,000 child care educators, as well as investing $300,000 in start-up grants to support new family child care providers to open and expand capacity in child care.
– We directed over $9 million in funding to support Early Intervention providers who deliver critical services to children with developmental needs.
– We invested $7.5 million in primary pediatric care to stabilize and support pediatric providers and support children in getting caught up on preventative care, such as routine vaccines and lead screens.
– Since March 2021, we have distributed over $57 million in Child Care Stabilization Grants through the CRRSA-funded Child Care Stabilization Fund and the ARPA ReInvigorate Child Care Stabilization Grants. These programs are essential to support and stabilize Rhode Island’s child care industry and have each reached more than 93% of all child care providers.
– We expanded Rhode Island Pre-K – Rhode Island’s nationally top-ranked, free, high-quality, full-day, full school-year program for 4-year-olds delivered by schools, child care centers, and Head Start agencies – by more than 500 seats. We have over 2,300 RI Pre-K seats across 18 communities.
Where we’re going
– We’re committed to supporting children and families holistically and ensuring that children have equitable opportunities at every phase of their life. That’s why our key initiatives in the FY 23 budget focus on access, equity, and opportunity. From proposing to Cover All Kids to expanding access and rates for the Child Care Assistance Program, to investing in an innovative Higher Ed Academy, we are making progress to ensure Rhode Islanders have the health care and education they need to succeed.
A few legislative highlights
– We signed the Act on Climate and committed to develop a plan to incrementally reduce climate emissions to net-zero by 2050.
– We raised the minimum wage in Rhode Island from $11.50 to $15 over the next four years and signed the Fair Pay Act to prohibit wage discrimination.
– We took important steps to build safer communities by signing legislation to keep guns off school grounds and out of the hands of dangerous criminals.
– We made Rhode Island Promise permanent, providing up to two years of free tuition for eligible Rhode Islanders at the Community College of Rhode Island.
– We made doula services eligible for reimbursement through private insurance plans and via Medicaid coverage – a major step forward in improving labor and delivery outcomes, particularly for women of color in Rhode Island.
– We ensured that insulin is more affordable for those who depend on this lifesaving medication by capping the co-pay at $40 for a 30-day supply.