R.I. receives $8M for pilot initiative to increase economic stability in central Providence

Updated at 3:44 p.m. on Dec. 2, 2020.

PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island has been awarded an $8 million grant for a pilot initiative to increase social and economic mobility for city residents in the 02908 and 02909 zip codes, Gov. Gina M. Raimondo announced on Wednesday.

The governor’s office said that the nonprofit Blue Meridian Partners made the two-year investment in the initiative, called Central Providence Opportunities, which will be managed by the Rhode Island Foundation. The foundation will serve as the fiscal sponsor of the initiative and provide technical assistance aimed at building toward a plan to scale the program statewide.

The 24-month program will be a collaboration between ONE Neighborhood Builders, who will lead the initiative, the state and the Rhode Island Foundation. The initiative will convene community partners and residents to address health disparities via systems change and policy reform, in an effort to increase economic security and opportunity for residents.

“This initiative is a critical step in building a stronger, more resilient and more equitable Rhode Island,” said Raimondo. “The next two years will demonstrate that investments in our communities and our people yield dividends, creating a model that can be scaled up and implemented across the state.”

- Advertisement -

The initiative will include direct investments into increasing affordable housing, growing and sustaining community capacity, improving leading indicators leading to third grade reading and advancing workforce and business-development outcomes with a focus on minority-owned businesses.

The program, set to launch next month, is expected to scale out its strategies to the entire state following its completion.

The pilot program will focus on the Providence neighborhoods of Olneyville, Hartford, Manton, Silver Lake, Valley, Federal Hill, Smith Hill, Elmhurst and Mount Pleasant, which have been some of the hardest-hit areas in the state by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Through many years of working side by side, a genuine spirit of collaboration and shared vision has been cultivated among residents and community partners,” said Jennifer Hawkins, president and executive director of ONE Neighborhood Builders. “COVID-19 has tested our resilience and strengthened our commitment to enduring and equitable improvements. I could not be more optimistic about the initiative’s potential.”

Included in the grant is a $1 million investment in Rhode Island’s Health Equity Zones, which will provide infrastructure to implement lessons learned statewide. 

“As the state’s community foundation, we are excited to steward this investment, and to ensure its positive impact on the residents of central Providence,” said Neil D. Steinberg, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation. “This work has the potential to create a blueprint to equitably scale statewide investments of the same kind, with a focus on increasing economic security and opportunity for Rhode Islanders.”

CORRECTION: Blue Meridian awarded the $8 million grant to the state.