Above: Rep. Justine Caldwell listens as Gov. Dan McKee talks about how he wants to spend federal ARPA dollars at The Patio on Main Street Monday.
EG’s state representative attended McKee’s recent visit to The Patio on Main Street
When Gov. Dan McKee came to The Patio on Main Street in East Greenwich Monday, he spoke of the urgent need to help small businesses who have been hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic, noting the state had not yet spent any of the $1.1 billion it received from the federal government through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
He proposed spending 10 percent on small businesses, housing and child care, and said, “I believe our small business owners cannot wait any longer.”
Rep. Justine Caldwell (Dist. 30, EG, WG) was at Monday’s event. Afterward, she said she welcomed McKee’s words.
“Gov. McKee has not submitted a supplemental budget yet. I believe he said later in the week they would be submitting it and that was music to my ears because that is what we’ve been waiting for,” said Caldwell.
The General Assembly controls the state’s purse strings. Caldwell said while she believed the GA could act first, traditionally the governor submits a budget (or supplemental budget in this case) to the GA first.
“It’s a lot of money. A lot of different people want it and we want to make sure we’re using it in a responsible way,” she said. “We all want the funds to be used as quickly as they can be used and as efficiently as they can be used. When we are talking about significant long-term investments, we want to make sure we’re taking the time to do it well.”
Caldwell said a supplemental budget proposal is the obvious next step in the process, so it can be reviewed by the House Finance Committee and heard by the various committees.
She said the most important thing for legislators now was to be talking to constituents. Regarding small business needs, “I think a lot of legislators need to hear from the small business owners in their districts. I was talking to members of the East Greenwich Chamber about the supply chain difficulties.”
She noted how she and a friend had been at Walmart in North Kingstown just that morning, looking for juice boxes for their children. “They were out of juice boxes!” she said.
“I think a lot of people don’t understand the difficulties businesses are still going through. They think the pandemic is over. They don’t quite understand the day-to-day difficulties that small businesses and our hospitality industry are having.”
Regarding tension between the governor’s office and the General Assembly, Caldwell said there was always tension.
“But,” she said, “we’re only on one team: Team Rhode Island.”