East Providence mayor hands out pandemic-funded gift cards to city businesses


EAST PROVIDENCE — Asking who can get the $1 million in disaster relief funds Gov. Dan McKee wants to split between the two cities hardest hit by the Washington Bridge disaster, the city of East Providence Mayor Roberto DaSilva has proposed a potentially novel idea.

Da Silva said only: “Debit card,” as he headed to the state Capitol for an unrelated news conference. or gift card.

gift card? How will it work?

Details have yet to be worked out, but DaSilva described potential uses for his city's $600,000 of the unspent $1 million McKee asked the Legislature to split between East Providence and Providence $600,000 in federal pandemic funding.

“The idea is to help those businesses that are most affected. Our job is to identify which businesses … because all businesses are affected differently,” da Silva said. “Some people lost 40%. Some people lost 20%.”

Direct handouts would “require some work on our part…to identify those who have the most to lose so that we can get money to those who have truly suffered”. [most] affected.

He gave an example of how funds could be directed: the need for debit cards within the city for affected businesses. The logic is, if someone gets a $25 or $50 gift card, “you go to a restaurant, you're going to spend more money.”

“Just an idea,” he said, but one he was seriously considering.

His concern: If East Providence divides the $600,000 McKee wants to give his city evenly among the 500 or so businesses in East Providence, the amount would be a little more than $1,000 per business Dollar.

“Will this help them?” he asked. “Or do we come up with another plan where we take that money and make it have a multiplier effect?”

What about Providence?

Asked the same question─what will your city do with the money? Josh Estrella, a spokesman for Providence Mayor Brett Smiley, told the Wall Street Journal: “Once the city has a better understanding of the rules and regulations surrounding the funding, the city will develop a plan. item usage plan.

The bigger picture

The uncertainty stems from McKee's initial plan to set aside $300,000 for direct grants to hard-hit businesses, but he decided to go in a different direction after complaints that it wasn't enough.

In his most recent budget amendment to the Legislature, he seeks to provide $600,000 to East Providence and $400,000 to Providence for direct grants “or other business support, provided by local communities.” Decide”.

If the Legislature agrees, another $300,000 would be allocated to the Executive Office of Commerce for an unspecified purpose “as a contingency fund to support any significantly impacted businesses in East Providence and outside of Providence.”

“While businesses in East Providence and Providence will be most directly impacted by the Washington Bridge reconstruction, the impacts will be felt across the state,” said then-Commerce Secretary Liz Tanner. “Recognizing the critical role small businesses play in our economy, the Department of Commerce will invest $300,000 to support those affected in Rhode Island, strengthening our commitment to the small business community.”

In addition to the $400,000 marketing campaign, the proposed $1.3 million package includes “driving business back to areas affected by the bridge.”

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