Smiley requests United Way’s reparations allocation be increased

MAYOR BRETT P. SMILEY ON THURSDAY ANNOUNCED his request to increase the allocation in American Rescue Plan Act funds for United Way of Rhode Island from $1.75 million to $3.35 million./PBN FILE PHOTO/MICHAEL SALERNO

PROVIDENCE – Mayor Brett P. Smiley on Thursday he will request an amendment to the city’s $10 million “COVID-19 Equities Program,” increasing the amount initially itemized for United Way of Rhode Island from $1.75 million to $3.35 million.

The request is scheduled to be heard before the Board of Contract and Supply on Nov. 6 to approve a contract with the United Way “to fulfill an expanded scope of initiatives outlined in the COVID-19 Equities Program,” an ordinance drafted by the previous administration to invest federal dollars toward improving racial equity in the city.

After taking office, the Smiley administration completed a review of all ARPA ordinances and has made changes to the budget approved under former Mayor Jorge Elorza.

In a press release Thursday, Smiley said that “In an effort to meet the intent of the proposal and increase the impact of the limited dollars, United Way was identified as a partner that has existing programs, established infrastructure, and a focus on equity.

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“I am incredibly excited to partner with United Way of Rhode Island to advance the many programs included in the COVID-19 Equities Program,” Smiley added. “United Way is a trusted community partner taking meaningful steps to close local equity gaps. Over the coming months and years, we look forward to working with them to ensure each of these programs have the positive impact the Providence Municipal Reparations Commission intended them to have within our community.”

Smiley spokesperson Patricia Socarras on Thursday said the remainder of the equities budget is moving forward as planned, with the city acting as “program manager.” All expenditure requests must first be approved by the the Board of Contract and Supply.

The administration is still responsible for ensuring United Way meets contractual obligations and is compliant with federal law and will directly administer the remaining $6.3 million in the COVID-19 Equities Program.

According to city officials, United Way was chosen because it already have the staff, resources and infrastructure to better implement the goals of the equities initiative.

On Thursday, United Way of Rhode Island CEO and President Cortney Nicolato said the nonprofit “is in perfect alignment [with] the commitment to building racial equity.”

“As we have done for nearly a century, we understand the great responsibility of administering public funds and being good stewards of those dollars,” she said. “We look forward to engaging the community to facilitate investments with the potential to create real, positive impacts for families across our capital city.”

United Way is being tasked with implementing programs in areas including creation of a policy and research center, developing nonprofit capacity; and issuing requests for proposals for grant funding.

According to the Smiley administration, $81.4 million in ARPA funds has been allocated to date. A majority of the $85 million in remaining funds, about $64 million, is already obligated or tied to approved expenditures.

Per federal law, these funds must be allocated by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026. According to the city, $275,000 of the original $10 million equities budget has been paid out.

The increased funding to United Way will be dedicated to the following line items:

  • $150,000 for the Policy and Research Center
  • $250,000 to Collaborate with Neighborhood Providers Including Barbershops
  • $500,000 for Capacity Investments in Community Organizations
  • $200,000 to Establish A Fund Dedicated to Urban Renewal Impacts
  • $200,000 to Develop Grant Program to Assist Urban Renewal Impacted Neighborhoods
  • $100,000 Develop Grant Program to Assist Urban Renewal Impacted Neighborhoods
  • $50,000 for Advancing Public Education Campaigns
  • $50,000 Creation of K-12 “A Matter of Truth” Curriculum
  • $100,000 to K-12 Curriculum Grounded In Rhode Island & New England History

Christopher Allen is a PBN staff writer. You may contact him at 

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