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RI POLITICS

Senator: R.I. has the money but needs a plan to address homelessness

“It’s not a money problem,” Senator Ryan W. Pearson told the Globe. “It’s an execution problem.”

State Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ryan W. Pearson, a Cumberland Democrat

Happy Friday! I’m Ed Fitzpatrick and I plan to be in the room where it happens at “Hamilton” tonight. Follow me on Twitter @FitzProv or send tips to Edward.Fitzpatrick@Globe.com.

Coronavirus updates

Rhode Island has a high level of transmission: 406.6 total new cases per 100K population in the past 7 days

Fully vaccinated: 767,552 (of about 1.1 million residents)

New cases: 903

Test-positive rate: 5 percent

Currently hospitalized: 170

Total deaths: 2,939

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Leading off

Rhode Island already has the money needed to address the state’s homelessness crisis. Now, it needs to put that money to use – quickly. That’s the conclusion Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ryan W. Pearson reached when he reviewed the various sources of federal funding already available to the state.

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”It’s not a money problem,” Pearson told the Globe. “It’s an execution problem.”

Pearson noted Governor Daniel J. McKee has requested an additional $1.5 million to help those experiencing homelessness as part of a supplemental budget request.

But he said his review of existing allocations shows Rhode Island already has $44.5 million to address homelessness, including $17.2 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds, a $13.5 million HOME grant, $5.8 million in other grants, $5 million in CARES Act funds, and a $3 million Community Development Block Grant. Plus, the state could tap millions more in American Rescue Plan Act money.

Pearson, a Cumberland Democrat considering a run for state treasurer, said he listened to the Rhode Island Report podcast in which Providence College professor Eric Hirsch, a longtime advocate, blasted state leaders for sitting on federal funds while the homelessness crisis worsens.

Pearson said he asked Hirsch to send him proposals, and the state has more than enough money to pay for the immediate and mid-range steps he suggested. While the state plans to spend some of the $44.5 million it has on hand, he’s wondering why it’s not spending more of it.

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”We can budget $1.5 million more,” he said. “But we need a clear execution plan from the administration.”

McKee addressed the issue Wednesday, noting that his administration has approved $5 million to create 275 more shelter beds, plus $31 million from a state housing bond to fund 23 affordable housing projects.

”We recognize that more needs to be done,” McKee said. And that’s why he’s requesting more in his supplemental budget request, he said.

Hirsch said he had a “very good meeting” with McKee after the podcast. “He finally did understand the urgency,” he said. “I think he is committed to making this happen quickly.”

Hirsch said McKee has 10 to 15 staff members focused on the issue, including Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor and administration director James E. Thorsen. Officials are close to finding places for shelter beds in Woonsocket and Newport, and they’re looking for a location for the ECHO Village tiny homes project, he said.

But Rhode Island must find more shelter beds this winter and 500 units of permanent supportive housing by spring, Hirsch said. He called for using government buildings and old industrial sites, saying, “We know it’s difficult, but one of the most important impacts of COVID is that so many people are living outside.”

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The Globe in Rhode Island

⚓ My colleague Alexa Gagosz takes a look at what a US Supreme Court ruling on abortion could mean for Rhode Island. Read more.

⚓ My latest: The state redistricting commission unveiled drafts of new House and Senate district maps, and a consultant suggested the state could count some, but not all, inmates at their home addresses rather than at the ACI. Read more.

Brian Amaral reports Rhode Island’s largest state employees union has approved a contract that includes $3,000 bonuses for those who get COVID-19 vaccines. Read more.

⚓ For the second time in a month, thick coal tar oil spilled into the Seekonk River, and a portion of it came from the Tidewater Landing project, which includes a soccer stadium in Pawtucket. Read more.

⚓ US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm visited the Providence River waterfront to see a new wind foundation manufacturing site under construction at ProvPort. Read more.

Lauren Daley is writing a new weekly column, The 401, on things to do in Rhode Island, describing it as “a heady curation, the cream of the week’s crop – the Awful Awful of happenings – from live music to family fun.” Read more.

⚓ A Westerly company, Darlington Fabrics, is settling a discrimination lawsuit filed by the ACLU after a hiring manager told a prospective intern she wouldn’t be hired after she disclosed she was a medical marijuana patient. Read more.

⚓ Alexa describes how Mambo Sushi is bringing Peruvian flair to Asian cuisine at the new Federal Hill restaurant. Read more.

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⚓ In a Globe Rhode Island commentary piece, House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi says housing remains a top priority for Rhode Island lawmakers. Read more.

Here’s more Globe Rhode Island coverage.

Also in the Globe

⚓ My colleague James Pindell analyzes why three of the most popular Republicans in New England – Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, and Vermont Governor Phil Scott – are passing on major election contests. Read more.

Felicia Gans reports that Massachusetts saw 8,513 new cases of COVID-19 among public school students and 1,396 among staff in the two-week period that ended Wednesday. Read more.

⚓ The US Senate passed a stopgap spending bill to avoid a short-term shutdown and fund the federal government through Feb. 18. Read more.

Ben Volin looks at why the Buffalo Bills are in a bit of a funk heading into Monday night’s matchup against the New England Patriots. Read more.

Our journalism relies on support from readers like you. Please help us continue our mission with a subscription to the Globe. Here’s a special deal for Rhode Island.

What’s on tap today

E-mail events to us at RInews@globe.com.

⚓ Rhode Map readers have sent another round of Happy Birthday wishes to: Ian Donnis, Thomas M. Greaney (64), Dr. Anne Benjamin (32), Clay Shackleton Jr., Caitlin Doyle Wiesen (40), Karen Santilli, Abbey Nelson (14), Charlene Teja, Kathleen Augaitis, Adam Buck (53), Ashley Kristina Martino Dulgan, Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung, Lisa Sahagian, Sandy Patalano Amato, and Renee McCarthy.

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⚓ At 5 p.m., Providence will hold its annual holiday tree lighting ceremony, with Mayor Jorge O. Elorza and Olympic figure-skating medalist Nancy Kerrigan, at City Hall and the BankNewport City Center.

WaterFire Providence will have its first holiday-themed basin lighting in five years, between 4:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday. The event will include an illuminated 12-foot Christmas tree, Santa’s Village, and a holiday toy drive.

⚓ Smithfield’s “All Lit Up Christmas Parade” will begin at 4 p.m. Saturday, starting at Smithfield High School and heading to the Greenville Common for the tree lighting.

⚓ In Woonsocket, the Winter Wonderland Celebration will run from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday at River Island Art Park, Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt announced.

Dan’s previous column

Dan McGowan asked the six Democratic candidates for governor to offer some advice to President Joe Biden. They mostly talked about themselves.

If you missed the column, you can read it here. And all of Dan’s columns are on our Rhode Island Commentary page.

Rhode Island Report podcast

Dan McGowan talks to CCRI President Meghan Hughes about her new role as president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce board. Listen to all of our podcasts here.

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You can get alerts about Rhode Island news on the Globe’s app (iOS and Android). Just tap the gear icon, then “Edit Alert Settings,” and choose Rhode Island.

Thanks for reading. Send comments and suggestions to Edward.Fitzpatrick@Globe.com, or follow me on Twitter @FitzProv. Dan will be back on Monday.

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Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.