by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Kyle Smith writes for National Review Online about one northeastern city’s unusual approach to taxpayer-funded COVID relief. Rather than use the money to pay for mitigation of damage caused by COVID, city leaders have chosen instead to pursue a dubious political goal.
More than 18 months after the economic crisis caused by lockdowns ended, there is still an enormous amount of unspent funding hanging around. The city of Providence, R.I., has hit on a seemingly new reason for spending the money: reparations for black and indigenous people.
The American Rescue Plan Act — a gargantuan $1.9 trillion spending package meant to enable the Biden administration to claim credit for taking bold and decisive action to end an economic crisis that was already over as of early 2021 (GDP growth was 6.3 percent that first quarter, following growth of 33.8 percent and 4.5 percent in the last two quarters of 2020) — shoveled so much money out to the cities that it has taken them some time to puzzle out what to do with the windfall. Providence is spending a $124 million federal grant on housing, infrastructure, and other things that have nothing to do with the pandemic, plus $10 million on reparations, via a yet-to-be-determined method.
Mayor Jorge Elorza says, “Reparations can take a lot of different shapes. We know that $10 million is not enough. We can’t right all the wrongs of the past, but we can take an important first step.”
Providence is a city of about 181,000, of whom about 18 percent are black or indigenous. A $10 million reparations package would, if distributed via direct cash payouts, amount to about 33,000 people getting a check for $300 each.
One hopes that at least some of the fine citizens of Providence might prefer another use of funds designed to deal with the impact of COVID-19.