Members of the Rhode Island House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a legislative bill that will give East Providence an . The payment will float the city until May. It was projected East Providence would without an influx of cash by March.
"I would not be standing here asking you to do this," said Rep. Helio Melo, chairman of the House Finance Committee (D-East Providence). "Obviously the city is in default of some contractual obligations...It gives the city time to develop strategies."
The bill passed 64-1. Rep. Robert Watson (R-East Greenwich, West Greenwich) was the only no vote. He had concerns with an amendment to the bill that states East Providence is not in default due to outstanding debts.
The legislation sets precedent in Rhode Island. If a city or town falls within the purview of a state-appointed budget commission, early state aid payments are now an option to balance municipal budgets; however, according to Rep. Helio, the option is a last resort.
"No one here wants us to see a budget commission come into any city or town," he said on the floor. "It's not something we looked forward to, it's just to help cities and towns."
Members of the Senate are expected to vote on the bill this week. It will then be sent to the governor's office for signing. The city is normally allocated two payments each year; the next one was originally scheduled for April 30, said Finance Director Ellen Eggeman during a budget commission meeting.
East Providence is expected to pay back The Rhode Island Department of Revenue about $13,000 in lost interest fees. According to Rep. Melo, if East Providence wasn't able to secure the advancement in aid, administrators would have been forced to borrow from lendors and incur high interest fees ranging up to $400,000.
"It's a relief," he said after the vote.