Assistance for State and Local Governments
I took a lead role in creating a $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund for states in the CARES Act, making sure that Rhode Island received $1.25 billion in federal funding to assist the state in its COVID-19 response. These federal funds may be used to help Rhode Island meet its financial obligations as the state marshals resources to care for Rhode Islanders and effectively combat the COVID-19 pandemic. State and local governments are facing unprecedented challenges as they work to contain the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19, and it falls to the federal government to assist in these times.
What can these funds be used for?
The law allows a state to use this funding for costs related to the COVID-19 public health emergency that the state had not previously budgeted for before the law was enacted. The funds may only be used to cover costs incurred between March 1 and December 30, 2020. The Treasury Department has released further guidance on uses for these funds, which is available HERE.
Community Development Block Grants
The CARES Act also provides $5 billion for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. CDBG provides block grants to states and local governments to develop viable urban communities by providing decent housing and a suitable living environment, and by expanding economic opportunities, principally for low- and moderate-income persons. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is releasing this funding in multiple allocations, and has announced that the first set of CDBG funding will award almost $10 million to Rhode Island. The announced funding represents $2 billion of the overall $5 billion provided for CDBG.
FEMA Major Disaster Declaration
On March 30, 2020, President Trump approved a major disaster declaration for Rhode Island, freeing up needed federal emergency aid to help the state combat COVID-19. This major disaster declaration opened up public assistance federal funding to eligible state and local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations, on a cost-sharing basis, for emergency protective measures related to COVID-19.