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How Rhode Islanders want to spend billions in federal relief funds

A new poll from Bryant University finds much of the public doesn’t trust elected officials to spend the money wisely

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Happy Thursday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. I’m Dan McGowan and nothing can ruin my day because the New York Knicks are officially heading to the NBA playoffs. Follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan or send tips to Dan.McGowan@globe.com.

ICYMI: Rhode Island was up to 150,252 confirmed coronavirus cases on Wednesday, after adding 146 new cases. The most-recent overall daily test-positive rate was 1 percent, and the first-time positive rate was 10.5 percent. The state announced two more deaths, bringing the total to 2,696. There were 101 people in the hospital, and 467,369 residents were fully vaccinated.


There’s good news and bad news about how Rhode Islanders feel about the billions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funding coming our way, according to a new poll from Bryant University’s Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership.

We’ll start with the bad news: 48 percent of registered voters don’t trust elected officials to spend the money wisely, compared to just 41 percent who say they do trust officials to spend it wisely.

It’s no surprise that more than 85 percent of Republicans don’t trust a state led by Democrats, but the split between men and women also stands out: Nearly 59 percent of men say they don’t trust officials to spend the money wisely, while nearly 48 percent of women say they do.

While those results may bruise the egos of a few politicians, there’s no sign that Rhode Island plans to give any of this money back.

Which brings us to some good news: Voters have some pretty smart ideas for how to spend the money.

When asked a broad question about how the money should be spent, 38 percent said they want money to be used for capital expenditures, 26 percent preferred daily operations, and 10 percent said they’d like to see a combination of both (which is probably the most realistic result).


Voters were given a list of potential ideas and asked to rate them on a scale from one to five.

On the state level, voters said they would like to spend the money on grants or loans to small businesses affected by the pandemic (76 percent), job training and re-skilling programs (60 percent), reversing student learning loss (58 percent), and subsidizing rent for affordable housing tenants (50 percent).

For cities and towns, voters said they would like to spend the money on enhancing public school programs (64 percent), one-time infrastructure projects (54 percent), and expanding services for seniors (52 percent).

If the money is spent primarily on infrastructure projects, the most popular ideas were repairing roads and bridges (61 percent) and modernizing school facilities (59 percent), but affordable housing and investing in climate resiliency and renewable energy were over 50 percent as well.  

The landline/cell phone survey of 400 voters was conducted by Fleming & Associates April 25 through April 28.


⚓ My scoop from Wednesday: Providence wants to borrow $700 million for its underfunded pension system. Read more.

⚓ While states such as Georgia and Florida are enacting new laws that make it more difficult to vote, the majority of Rhode Island voters say they would back mail ballots, early voting, and same-day registration initiatives, advocates said Wednesday. Read more.


⚓ The House Oversight Committee is holding a hearing Thursday into ongoing issues at the state Department of Children, Youth, and Families, including the hiring of a new director, how social workers are juggling heavy caseloads, and the impact of school closures on children suffering abuse. Read more.

⚓ Rhode Island lawmakers on Wednesday passed legislation that will allow people to work more while still collecting unemployment. Read more.

⚓ After being shuttered temporarily because of rising COVID-19 cases in March 2020, the Trinity Repertory Company announced Wednesday a return of in-person theater productions beginning in November 2021. Read more.

⚓ Don’t forget to visit (and bookmark) the Globe’s Rhode Island website for new stories every day. Read more.

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Politics: My colleague James Pindell writes that while House Republicans have ousted Representative Liz Cheney from leadership, they might have helped launch her campaign for president. Read more.

Economy: Larry Edelman explains why eye-popping inflation is likely to be temporary. Read more

Education: Don’t miss this touching story about a student’s creative Harvard admissions essay. Read more.

Sports: There appears to be some COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy within the Red Sox organization. Read more.


Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what’s happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

⚓ BIRTHDAYS: Rhode Map readers, if you want a friend or family member to be recognized on Friday, send me an e-mail with their first and last name, and their age. If you want a shout out on the new Globe Rhode Island Facebook page, send along their Facebook handle as well.


⚓ Governor Dan McKee will hold his weekly COVID-19 press conference at 1 p.m.

⚓ Governor McKee and Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos are holding a Facebook Live discussion at 7 p.m. on housing issues in Rhode Island. Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor will moderate the discussion. 

⚓ The House Oversight Committee meets at 4 p.m. to review the Department of Children, Youth, and Families.

⚓ Do you ❤ Rhode Map? Your subscription is what makes it possible. We’ve got a great offer here.

Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.