We're almost at the end of the longest January in human history (or at least it feels that way!) This week I have a reminder about mortgage and rental assistance, some great news about what's happening in Quonset, a week of action on civic engagement and voting access that started at Narragansett High School and ended at the State House, and a sneak peek at environmental legislative priorities for Rhode Island this session. 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 a renter in need of assistance, RentReliefRI is still available via this link. Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if I can help!
1. Offshore Wind at Quonset
This week Governor McKee's administration announced a proposal for additional spending of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) federal funds, including $60 million dollars for improvements at the Port of Davisville in Quonset. These funds would be used to make the necessary improvements to support the development of offshore wind turbines from Quonset, which would both preserve thousands of existing port jobs and prepare Rhode Island for hundreds more wind energy jobs in the future.
In order to meet the targets set by the Act On Climate to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, Rhode Island will need to ramp up both wind and solar power generation in the coming years. The existing infrastructure and location of Quonset make it ideally suited to help with that effort. This proposal will have hearings in both the Senate and House Finance Committees, where there will be opportunity for public testimony. To keep an eye out for progress on bills and budget items as they go to Committee, bookmark this page and check out the agendas as they are posted weekly. Information about how to submit written testimony or testify live at the hearings will be included on each agenda, as well as information on how to view the hearing.
2. Let Rhode Island Vote! (But First, Make Sure Kids Learn How)
One of my favorite parts about serving in the General Assembly is having the chance to do things in the community like mentoring a Narragansett high school senior for his Senior Project! Last week I went to Narragansett High School for their Civics Day event, where they got to meet with the Rhode island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea and then practice casting a ballot (mock election questions such as whether Election Day should be a holiday) into a real voting machine.
Activities like this are so important because when people get to practice something, understand the components, and get their questions answered (registering to vote, researching candidates and ballot measures, how to fill out a ballot and put it in the machine) they are more likely to engage in that action in the future. The students had excellent questions and a good understanding of the impact of their vote on local elections especially.
This week I participated in the launch of the 2022 Let RI Vote! campaign as the Senate Sponsor of a Resolution that would move us toward same-day voter registration. The Let RI Vote Act, sponsored in the Senate by Chairwoman Dawn Euer, would make permanent the changes in early in person voting and voting by mail that were so popular during the pandemic and led to record levels of voter participation. The majority of Rhode Islanders support these modern and secure updates to the way we vote, and I am committed to making sure that every eligible Rhode Islander can make their voice heard at the ballot box on Election Day - whether it's a vote for President or a Special election for a school construction bond.
3. A Preview of Environmental Legislative Priorities for 2022
Fighting climate change and eliminating toxins that pollute our air and water are on top of the priority list for environmental legislation for 2022. As the Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture, I take every opportunity I can to learn from experts and advocates about the most effective ways to reach our climate goals and create a healthy Rhode Island for all. This week I participated in a Legislative Coffee Hour hosted by the Environment Council of Rhode Island that brought together environmental champions from the General Assembly and the community to discuss the upcoming session. The priorities for this session include:
Environmental Justice legislation to ensure the needs of the most vulnerable and underserved communities are addressed
Reach 100% Renewable Electricity by 2030
Regulate toxic PFAS chemicals in our water and in products
Solar siting incentives and offshore wind initiatives
Climate Literacy in schools
Reduce transportation emissions
It's an ambitious but achievable and necessary list, and as the 2022 State Lead for the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators, I look forward to working together with my Senate and House colleagues as well as advocates to pass strong environmental legislation this year!