Pension Bailouts, Reparations, Guaranteed Income: Here Are Ideas for Spending US Aid in RI

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Should Rhode Island utilize a significant portion of its $1.13 billion American Rescue Mission windfall to shore up Providence’s grossly underfunded pension scheme?

Should municipal and state employees, public school teachers, and other “critical workers” all over the state, such as medical workers, food store employees, and bus drivers, get additional “recognized payment” — more popularly known as bonuses?

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What about “all other working persons who worked throughout the epidemic and continue to work”? Should they be eligible for bonuses as well?

On top of the billions in coronavirus relief previously handed to Rhode Island, state lawmakers have actually opened the doors — and built an online portal — for ordinary individuals to weigh in on how the state should spend this next billion-dollar bonanza in federal cash.

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Hearings on Gov. Dan McKee’s planned expenditure of the first 10% of the $1.13 billion were held last week, and more will be held this week in the Senate on Wednesday and the House on Thursday. (The federal assistance package also includes $540 million for “local budget relief” in Rhode Island and $415 million for K-12 education.)

However, the public reaction has been meagre thus far, with only a few organizations expressing interest in receiving a portion of the funds over the internet. The AFL-CIO, the state’s largest organized labor union, posted 26 of its proposals on Facebook.

Rescue the Ri pension system, which is now 22% covered and cost the economy $86.7 million in compulsory contributions in Financial Year 2020, with a predicted increase to $227.5 million by 2040.

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The AFL-CIO idea has already been floated around the State House without success:

The state should acquire the Providence Water Supply Board’s assets from the City of Providence and insist that any sale proceeds be paid in the city’s pension fund.”

The windfall expenditure must be approved by the General Assembly. The General Assembly is currently not in session, and there are no plans to reconvene until the beginning of the 2022 session in January.

He convened with the so-called Rhode Island Children’s Cabinet on Tuesday “to emphasize the seriousness” of his quest to increase wages for workers who deal with children in outside agencies.

The Rhode Island Children’s Cabinet, which meets regularly to discuss issues that affect persons under the age of 24, is made up of the leaders of state agencies that support kids under the age of 24.

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