Media release

Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Foundation join Governor Raimondo, local mayors, partners to launch relief fund

Funds raised will support Rhode Islanders hardest hit by COVID-19

Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Foundation today joined Governor Gina M. Raimondo, Mayor James Diossa of Central Falls, Mayor Jorge Elorza of Providence, Mayor Don Grebien of Pawtucket and other community partners to announce the launch of the weR1 Rhode Island fund. The fund will provide direct cash assistance to Rhode Islanders who are unable to benefit from most public programs and emergency relief efforts due to their immigration status.

“Our friends and neighbors who happen to be undocumented are major contributors to the rich cultural and economic tapestry of our state. And they’ve been hit especially hard by this crisis,” said Governor Raimondo. “We are one Rhode Island community, and it’s important that we continue to help our neighbors most in need right now. I am grateful to the many partners who answered the call and are giving generously to launch this fund and support our families.”

The weR1 Rhode Island Fund is a collaborative effort between government, community, and philanthropic organizations to raise $3 million to provide no-fee debit cards to Rhode Islanders with urgent need due to sickness, job loss or reduction in work hours and who are excluded from many federal programs. The Fund is designed to help close this aid gap.

"Residents of all backgrounds, walks of life and zip codes should have access to quality support structures as we fight the spread of COVID-19," said Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. "Through the weR1 Rhode Island fund, our community members will receive the direct and immediate funds necessary to keep their families safe and healthy. This a meaningful moment for our state and cities, as so many partners come together to help our neighbors in need, including those who live in Providence."

“We are thankful to the Governor for this fund,” said Mayor James A. Diossa. “Senator Cano and I helped with the support of the Rhode Island Foundation, Amica, and other donors, through Progreso Latino and Fuerza Laboral to raise $170,000 to help undocumented families in Central Fall and Pawtucket that quickly vanished because of high demand. This will now allow for many of our families who do not qualify for state or federal support to receive assistance.”

“The City of Pawtucket thanks Governor Raimondo for her commitment to assist our undocumented community through the weR1 cash relief fund,” said Pawtucket Mayor Donald R. Grebien. “Pawtucket, just like the rest of Rhode Island, is a diverse community. The State’s initiative will go a long way to providing relief to individuals who are otherwise ineligible for public assistance throughout this pandemic.”

The Rhode Island Foundation will contribute $200,000 to this effort and will assist in managing major gifts to the fund alongside Dorcas International. Additional early funders include Accelerator for America and United Way of Rhode Island. The weR1 Rhode Island Fund will launch with $575,000 committed. Disbursement of funds is scheduled to begin in July, supported by Dorcas International and a network of community partners.

"Many immigrants in Rhode Island have lost their incomes due to the pandemic, and at the same time are excluded from our social safety net. This initiative is crucial to the well-being of so many of our neighbors in these difficult times,” said Kathleen Cloutier, Executive Director, Dorcas International Institute of RI.

“COVID-19 has drawn a bright line around the disparities that exist within our communities,” said Neil D. Steinberg, President & CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation. “Those who were most in need prior to the pandemic have been hardest hit, and as the state’s community foundation, we are pleased to step in to provide and assist in managing funding that will directly help Rhode Islanders inch out of crisis and toward a better future.”

“The impact of this pandemic has been extraordinary, especially for our undocumented neighbors,” said Cortney Nicolato, United Way of RI’s president and CEO. “Supporting weR1 aligns with United Way’s mission to build stronger communities, which cannot be accomplished unless every Rhode Islander has access to critical supports.”

Donations to the weR1 Rhode Island Fund can be made at or by texting weR1 to 27126. For more information about the fund, visit or call 401-784-8600. Language services are available. Rhode Island Foundation will also accept large contributions to the fund at or by calling 401-274-4564.

Done hoy para ayudar a los residentes de Rhode Island más afectados por el COVID-19 que no pueden beneficiarse de la mayoría de los programas públicos y esfuerzos de auxilio de emergencia debido a su estatus migratorio.