CRANSTON, RI — The Rhode Island General Assembly approved a state budget Friday aimed at maintaining services and restoring aid to cities and towns through the uncertainty of the coronavirus health crisis.
The Assembly said $12.8 billion budget restores some cuts Gov. Gina Raimondo proposed, and in some cases instituted, to municipal aid, including distressed communities and car tax reimbursements, provider rates and social programs.
The Assembly said the budget also fully funds state aid to education, according to the state education formula, and avoids proposed fee increases at the Veterans Home.
The bill now goes to Gov. Raimondo's office for approval.
What House Finance Committee Chairman Marvin Abney (D-Newport) called the "skinny budget" was approved six months into the fiscal year during a special lame-duck session.
"Like so many aspects of our daily lives in 2020 this year's budget is different than years past," Abney said in a statement, "but it differs out of necessity and with the goal to support the state and its residents as best as possible during these trying and uncertain times."
The budget includes seven bond referendums that will be voted on in a special election in March.
"With so many financial unknowns and variables still to be locked down, I'm pleased that this budget will fully fund a top Senate priority, the restoration of aid to cities and towns," said Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-East Providence, Pawtucket), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. "I am also pleased that the bond questions will be placed before the voters in a special referendum in March. These initiatives, particularly $65 million for affordable housing, have been important priorities for the Senate."
The Assembly said the budget more than triples the contribution to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, includes extra payments to families enrolled in RIWorks, increased housing, rental and eviction relief assistance and extra payments to those affected under the state's December "pause" amid a spike in RI coronavirus rates.
The Assembly said the bill includes no cuts to state agencies that would result in staff layoffs at this time.