Rhode Island governor expected to discuss reopening more of state economy

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island’s governor on Thursday is expected to address the next phase in gradually reopening the state’s economy, which has been shuttered by the coronavirus.

Gov. Gina Raimondo has said the next phase of easing economic and social restrictions could take effect within two weeks.

The Democrat lifted the state’s stay-at-home order last week, allowing non-essential retailers and some parks to reopen over the weekend.

On Monday, the state will begin allowing restaurants to offer limited outdoor dining after being limited to takeout and delivery service for weeks.

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STATE BUDGET UPDATE

State lawmakers are holding a hearing Thursday on the shutdown’s impact on the state budget, which is facing a $800 million shortfall.

The House Finance Committee is slated to hear a briefing on federal virus relief programs as well as an update on state revenue and caseload projections.

Raimondo earlier this week said she might have to furlough state workers to help close the deficit. “This budget’s going to be brutal,” she said at her daily briefing Tuesday.

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VIRUS CASES

Health officials reported six new deaths from the coronavirus Thursday.

Roughly 470 people have now died from the virus in Rhode Island, according to the state Department of Health.

Another 180 people have tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number of positive cases to more than 12,000 since the pandemic started.

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UNEMPLOYMENT RISES

Jobless claims continue to rise in Rhode Island.

More than 1,000 people filed unemployment insurance claims and nearly 200 filed claims for temporary disability benefits on Wednesday, according to data released Thursday by the state Department of Labor and Training.

That brings the state’s total number of unemployment claims filed since the pandemic started to about 220,000 and the total number of temporary disability claims to nearly 22,000.

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DMV OFFICE REOPENS

The Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles will reopen its branch office in Middletown on Monday.

The agency closed all its locations except for the main office in Cranston because of the pandemic.

The Middletown branch will be open every weekday, but walk-ins won’t be allowed and service will be by appointment only.

Expiration dates for driver’s licenses, inspection stickers, and registrations that were due to expire in March, April and May have each been extended for 90 days.

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TAX SALE POSTPONED

The city of Providence has postponed a planned online auction of properties that are in tax arrears that was scheduled for Thursday over concerns about proper notice and participation.

The city had planned to go forward with the sale of hundreds of delinquent properties despite the pandemic, but City Councilman Michael Correia said taxpayers should be given more time to get their payments up to date.

A city spokeswoman said it’s unclear when the auction will now take place.

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