News from Alana 10 February 2022
Hello Neighbor -
The blue buckets are out on the maple trees and sunsets are after 5pm, so spring is on its way! This week I have some great news for our local restaurants and the people who love them, a rundown of the meetings I've had recently and the things I've learned, and relief grant opportunities for small businesses from RI Commerce. Thanks for reading!
Mortgage and Rental Assistance Available Now
From RI Housing: "The COVID-19 pandemic has left many Rhode Island homeowners struggling to pay their mortgage and housing costs. Fortunately, there is good news for Rhode Island homeowners with today’s launch of a new statewide mortgage assistance program, Homeowner Assistance Fund Rhode Island (HAF-RI), which provides mortgage and housing assistance for eligible families negatively impacted by the unprecedented loss of jobs and income due to COVID-19.
For many, owning a home represents the American Dream and is likely the greatest source of economic and social stability for owner households. The HAF-RI program provides vital resources for struggling Rhode Island homeowners and is a critical tool to help ease the pain of the pandemic felt by families and individuals across our state. We look forward to working with you to ensure Rhode Island homeowners have the tools, resources and information they need to stay stably housed." Applications are now open, follow the links to see if you qualify. If you are a renter in need of assistance, RentReliefRI is still available via this link. Please reach out to me at email@example.com if I can help!
1. Let's Keep Taking It Outside!
Our local restaurants have been so flexible and resilient during the pandemic, and a few bright spots that came out of their ingenuity were expanded options for outdoor dining - made possible by the temporary waiving of the normal necessary process through local zoning boards - and take out cocktails to go. Last year I was so happy to partner with Rep. Carol McEntee to pass a moratorium on zoning enforcement for establishments that had made these modifications, meaning that when the state of emergency was lifted they would be able to keep their outdoor spaces and apply to make them permanent. Senator Gallo also passed a bill last year extending the ability of restaurants to sell cocktails to go with takeout orders.
When we started session this January, we knew restaurants still hadn't had time to get these changes through their local zoning boards and that diners were still enjoying the outdoor options (have you seen the igloos at the Coast Guard House? Amazing!) and also getting specialty cocktails with their takeout order. So this week we passed legislation extending the moratorium on zoning enforcement for one more year and making cocktails to go permanent!
Is this the cure to all of the issues we are facing here in Rhode Island? No, of course not. But does it help local businesses and their employees? Yes. And does it provide some enjoyment for our communities during a challenging time? Absolutely! And that's something to celebrate.
2. What I've Been Up To This Week
In addition to submitting bills to be heard this session on issues ranging from protections for victims of sexual abuse, protecting the environment, and addressing our human services workforce crisis among other things, I've been meeting with a variety of departments as well as advocates to learn more about what needs exist, what plans are in motion, and how I can help. For example:
Along with Senator Lawson I met with representatives from the Governor's office and the Rhode Island Department of Education to understand how they are supporting schools statewide with the resources they need to continue to navigate COVID19 and preserve in-person learning and a safe environment for teachers, staff, and students
Chairwoman Dawn Euer and I met with representatives from the Office of Energy Resources to get information on how to help renters benefit from the home energy audits and energy efficiency programs available through RISE Engineering and learned about the initiatives they have already started to help accomplish that goal
I met with the Vice Chair of the Narragansett Affordable Housing Collaborative Committee to learn more about their work on increasing Narragansett's stock of homes that Rhode Islanders making a median income could afford
I attended the North Kingstown Town Council meeting to hear about their legislative priorities for 2022, which includes infrastructure funding for water systems
I had the chance to hear from a constituent about the challenges of navigating public transportation in our area as a person with a disability trying to get to work every day, which is resulting in a bill I am sponsoring to help address these issues statewide
I met with the director of the Department of Labor and Training to hear about their innovative "wrap around" approach to helping Rhode Islanders get back to work, and about their needs for an updated computer system to serve Rhode Islanders more efficiently
One of the things I love about this role is the opportunity to better understand the systems that affect Rhode Islanders every day, and every meeting I have leaves me with a new appreciation for everyone working to make those systems better.
3. RI Rebounds: Small Business Relief Grants Available Now
The RI Rebounds Small Business Grant Program provides direct financial assistance to our state’s small businesses that have suffered financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Grants are available for either $2,500 or $5,000.
Key Dates: The application is now open and will close Tuesday, February 15, 2022 at 3:30 PM. After this initial application phase, the program may reopen if funds remain. If the program is oversubscribed before the end of the initial application period, applications will be prioritized based on factors including whether an applicant is one or more of the following: a first-time recipient of COVID-19 assistance from the State of Rhode Island, a very small business, and/or a Minority or Women Business Enterprise (MBE/WBE). Information can be found here: https://commerceri.com/rirebounds/ Please contact my office at firstname.lastname@example.org if I can be of assistance!