Hello Neighbor -
The 2022 Session of the General Assembly is underway! This week, learn how you can track bills that have been introduced, find out about mortgage and rental assistance for Rhode Islanders, and the hat, glove, and scarf drive for kids in foster care needs your help! Plus, hear about why I support Sen. Murray's advocacy for the "human" to be put back in the Department of Human Services. Thanks for reading!
Senators and Representatives will be introducing their legislation for this session over the coming weeks, and there will be a lot of it! One easy way to search for bills that have been introduced is on the General Assembly website, through that link you can search for bills by Sponsor, Committee, or a specific bill number if you have it. Through that search feature you can see the text of the bill, the cosponsors, and what Committee it has been assigned to in the Senate or House of Representatives.
If you are interested in keeping up with the progress of certain bills, you can do that with the Bill Tracking feature on the General Assembly website. Simply create a free account and once you are logged in, click on "Manage Bills" and then "Add Bills." This will bring you to a search feature where you can look for bills by sponsor, committee, category, or bill number to add to your tracker.
One thing to note: almost all of the bills for any given session are requested in about a month's time. That means that everything a Senator or Representative wants to work on this year goes in all at once, in no particular order, and then we work on it all for the next several months. Therefore, the order of bills going in doesn't always reflect a legislator's priorities!
1. 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!
2. Hats, Gloves, and Scarves Needed for Kids in Foster Care
Over the past few months I have partnered with Representative Julie Casimiro to collect hundreds of bottles of shampoo and conditioner for Amenity Aid and gather hundreds of pairs of pajamas and books for children in foster care. Now, we are teaming up again to collect new hats, gloves, and scarves for children in foster care. As a mom I know how easily these items can get lost between school and home, and we want to make sure all kids have what they need to keep them warm and dry this winter. Donations can be brought to the State House, dropped in the bin on my steps at 47 Tupelo Trail Narragansett, or at Rep. Casimiro's house at 329 Wickham Road North Kingstown. We also have bins at JW Graham/YES! Gallery in Wickford and at the State House. Reach out if you need donations picked up through January!
3. A Call to Put The "Human" Back in the Department of Human Services
When the pandemic started 22 months ago, the Department of Human Services closed for in person assistance and has yet to open back up to help people to access SNAP (food assistance) benefits, child care assistance, and other crucial services at a physical location. People trying to get help find hours-long wait times on the phone, and no clear instructions for how to submit applications.
Senator Melissa Murray from Woonsocket held a press conference last week to draw attention to this issue and call for the resources for increased in-person DHS staffing, improved online support, and increased call center staff to help connect people with these essential services as other government agencies have done. I was proud to stand with her and support this call, and I will continue to help her work toward connecting all Rhode Islanders with the services they need to feed their families and access child care so they can return to work.
After the press conference, Senator Murray stood in the rain taking information from a constituent who had received paperwork for SNAP benefit eligibility but hadn't been able to complete the final steps because the office was closed for new applicants so she could help him get food on his table as soon as possible. As we start this new session I am grateful to work alongside so many dedicated public servants, and I will be keeping this focus of our work at the top of my mind.
Photo of the Week:
Proud to stand with Sen. Melissa Murray, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, and Sen. Jonathon Acosta to call for improved access to the essential services provided by the Department of Human Services