Springing Forward in the RI Senate
State Senator Alana DiMario writes (about the photo accompanying this post):
This week we came back to 100% in-person committees! Last year we did the best we could with the tools we had, and had a productive session working remotely with call-in testimony. But after a week of in-person hearings I see so many advantages to being back in person. The discussions are so much more meaningful face to face, both with my committee members and with people testifying. I look forward to an even more productive 2022!
This week I have a new community program for seniors up top with the housing assistance information, followed by the Top 3 for this edition: helping our child care system, applying for Homestead Property Tax Exemptions in Gansett and NK, and recaps on the bills I had hearings on since I checked in last. Don't forget to change your clocks this weekend (or at least just that one on your microwave that doesn't change automatically). Thanks for reading!
Community Programs & Assistance
Mortgage & Rental Assistance: 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.
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 email@example.com if I can help! Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program: Eligible participants can now sign up from March 1st – April 15th at the locations listed in this link for the first round of the NEW produce box delivery program of the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP). Those who sign up will receive a free food box filled with fresh, local, produce with a value of $20. Produce will be provided by local farmers and delivered by Farm Fresh Rhode Island (FFRI) at these chosen locations on a specified delivery day. For additional senior locations to be considered for receiving a produce box delivery in the second round of the bulk purchase program in 2022, please email: DEM.SFMNP@dem.ri.gov or contact one of the listed Nutrition Programs - which include the Narragansett Community Center and the North Kingstown Senior Center.
1. Child Care Is Essential
As the Co-Chair of the Permanent Joint Legislative Commission on Child Care, I have the privilege of hearing and learning regularly from home and center child care owners and providers, early childhood education policy experts, and agencies and organizations that support the child care system in Rhode Island. As a working parent and mental health professional supporting children 0-6 and their parents I understand the role the child care system plays for a family. And we have all seen the critical role that child care has played in allowing people to get back to work during the COVID 19 pandemic.
This week, a stabilization tool for our child care system ended. This comes on the heels of two terrible months of quarantines and closures for child care providers and parents, and as we are trying to set our child care system on a sustainable path that works for parents, providers, children, and our economy. On Tuesday the Senate passed my Resolution requesting that the Department of Human Services use their authority to reinstate this needed stabilization tool. This session I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure our child care system in Rhode Island is high quality, affordable, and provides good-paying jobs for the professionals that work within it.
2. Homestead Tax Exemption Applications Due - Narragansett and North Kingstown
For Narragansett and North Kingstown Homeowners, the deadline to apply for a Homestead Exemption to reduce your property taxes is March 15th. If you occupy your home as a primary residence, you qualify for this tax break which may be combined with other exemptions such as the Veterans or Senior Exemption.
Narragansett Homeowners follow this link for application information
North Kingstown Homeowners follow this link for application information
As always, if I can assist you in any way with this please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Tracking My Work in 2022
In the past two weeks I have had hearings on three more of my bills:
S2124 Prohibits the use of non-disclosure agreements as a condition of employment, meaning that employers can't set the expectation at hire that employees should keep quiet about discriminatory or harassing behavior in the workplace. We know that bad behavior thrives in secrecy, and no employee should feel like their livelihood is on the line if they speak up. This bill was heard in Senate Judiciary on 03/01/2022 and was held for further study.
S2325 Makes sure there are no out-of-pocket costs for Rhode Islanders for at-home COVID 19 Tests, even after the State of Emergency expires. As we move into the next phase of managing COVID-19, at-home rapid tests will continue to be an important tool to keep our more vulnerable family and community members safe. I want to remove all barriers to every Rhode Islander having access to this tool going forward. This bill was heard in Senate Health & Human Services on 03/03/2022, and was held for further study as we work out some issues with implementation dates.
S2449 Would ban PFAS chemicals from many consumer products in Rhode Island, including firefighting foam, carpets and textiles, juvenile products (car seats, mattresses), cosmetics, and apparel. These "forever chemicals" are prevalent, persistent, and pernicious with harmful health effects including cancer and respiratory issues even in small doses, and we need to end their use. We heard great testimony on this bill in the Senate Environment & Agriculture Committee on 03/09/2022, where it was held for further study. I am hopeful that we can successfully work on getting PFAS out of our water and consumer products this year.
Photo Credit: James Crowley with the Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental & Agricultural Committee 03/09/2022