Providence City Council tweaks $10M racial reparations plan; review needed

Updated at 6:06 p.m.

THE PROVIDENCE CITY COUNCIL tweaked a $10 million spending plan for racial reparations programs, triggering more review before a final vote./PBN FILE PHOTO/CHRIS BERGENHEIM

PROVIDENCE – Rather than approving a $10 million spending program on racial reparations as scheduled Tuesday, city lawmakers sent a revised version back to the Committee on Finance for further review.

The City Council’s 11-0 vote, with four members absent, extends the months-long effort by lawmakers and appointed community representatives to determine how to spend $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds on closing the racial equity gap.

The council was originally slated to approve the line-item budget – unveiled by Mayor Jorge O. Elorza in August – but instead decided to reallocate some of the funding to avoid redundancies with other city programs.

Specific changes included cutting funding for a home repair program, legal defense fund and an extension of the guaranteed income pilot program, instead shifting that combined $1.75 million into a new, COVID-19 equity fund to be administered by the United Way of Rhode Island.

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The changes were inspired in part by comments made at a September finance committee meeting in which community members and lawmakers expressed concern with some of the social programs proposed in the budget, saying they were duplicative of existing funds and programs.

The revised reparations budget now heads back to the finance committee for review and a recommendation, after which it will be returned to the full council for a vote.

The changes made Tuesday did not address other sources of criticism raised by community members previously, such as a lack of public involvement and the absence of the traditional tenets of a racial reparations program.

Indeed, the proposed spending plan does not include any direct payments to descendants of slaves, despite that being traditionally associated with racial reparations. Instead, it uses the money to pay for social programs aimed at helping residents grow their businesses, buy homes, and train for better jobs, among others. The programs also aren’t exclusively for Black and Indigenous people, with people with low incomes and those who live in certain neighborhoods, regardless of race, also able to benefit because of federal mandates around the stimulus money that is being used to fund the initiative.

However, advocates insist the focus will still be on Black and Indigenous residents, and in prior public comments praised the budget as a historic move toward addressing centuries-old racism and discrimination.

(UPDATES throughout with vote, nee details.)

Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at

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    • Great use of taxpayer money!! Funding programs that will help those who have been disadvantaged because of their race or financial status is critical if we are ever going to face the horrible wrongs done to those communities over these many, many, many years!
      Bravo City Council!