By Rep. Terri Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown)
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit hardest the areas and populations that were already struggling, since they had the fewest resources for adaptation and safety. We’ve seen the outsized effects on the poor and on minorities. Another group that it has been disproportionately hurt is adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD).
Here in Rhode Island, adults with I/DD have not been provided adequate resources for many years. In recent days, a federal judge issued an order requiring the state to quickly craft a plan to address 16 barriers that are preventing decent services, after years of failure to meet the terms of a previous consent decree to improve. The pandemic has made a bad situation far worse, shutting down most day programs and employment opportunities, leaving this very vulnerable population without critical supports. Residents and underpaid staff at group homes have been at risk for illness, and those living at home face isolation and a reduction or loss of in-home support services. Agencies that serve them, which have mostly operated on the financial brink for years, are in danger of going under permanently.
The challenges of the pandemic and recovery from it threaten the already sub-par progress the state has made toward fixing this system. A Senate task force led by my colleague and fellow Aquidneck Islander, Sen. Louis DiPalma, has been shedding light on the obstacles, which include a fee-for-service structure that discourages innovation and integration.
Rhode Island must do better for its residents with I/DD. Every individual served is a deserving person whose needs include meaningful activities that support their personal goals and a valued role in their communities.
I urge my colleagues in the House to get on board with the Senate, where Sen. DiPalma has long worked to call attention to the need for better funding and a more workable system of supports for adults with I/DD. We need to join him in fully recognizing and supporting the importance of the work that must be done to provide enriching and effective services to Rhode Islanders with I/DD. We may be deeply ashamed of our state’s history – from the not so distant past – of “dumping” people with I/DD at the notorious Ladd School, but have we really come very far if we are not providing them with the means they need to have a fulfilling life in the community?
Chief Judge John J. McConnell Jr. of the U.S. District Court has issued an order requiring drastic changes. We must break out of the old way of funding services based on congregate care. Undoubtedly, it will initially take additional support to make the changes in the short term. But it may save money in the long term, enabling more people to leave congregate care settings and lead meaningful, productive lives within their community.
I look forward to ensuring that this need is given the attention it deserves in the House.
Rep. Terri Cortvriend is a Democrat who represents District 72 in Portsmouth and Middletown.
By Sen. Dawn Euer and Rep. Jason Knight
Rhode Island is on the precipice of a cataclysmic housing disaster stemming from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. But swift, decisive action would avert this crisis.
On Monday, the courts will open and landlords may begin filing for evictions, although in some situations renters may have protections until July. With over 230,000 new unemployment claims since March 9, and a record 17-percent unemployment rate, vast numbers of Rhode Islanders are likely on the verge of losing their housing. When Virginia reopened its courts two weeks ago, it had over 800 eviction proceedings already scheduled. Rhode Island, with the fourth-highest unemployment rate in the nation, is likely to experience a similar avalanche.
Renters are more likely than homeowners to live paycheck to paycheck, at risk of financial ruin if their income stops. While the moratorium has protected them up to now, if they’ve been unable to pay rent for several months, it’s unlikely they can pay those months of back rent to avoid eviction.
Rhode Island can use a portion of its $1.25 billion federal COVID-19 response funding for emergency rent assistance. Quickly establishing an Eviction Diversion Court – really, just a special District Court calendar to handle evictions – would create a means to provide tenants legal counsel, require mediation and provide the financial assistance necessary to prevent eviction.
We appreciate the courts’ and the administration’s efforts in this arena so far, and urge them to act swiftly to save tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of Rhode Islanders from homelessness.
Sen. Dawn Euer (D-13) represents Newport and Jamestown, and Rep. Jason Knight (D-67) represents Barrington and Warren
By Rep. June S. Speakman, Rep. Susan R. Donovan, Rep. Liana Cassar, Rep. Terri Cortvriend and Rep. Lauren Carson
In virtually all the predictions of what will be hot in the 2020 General Assembly session, there has been little mention of environmental policy. It is imperative that we make progress in 2020 on several fronts including plastics pollution, sea level rise, renewable energy, sustaining a clean water supply and waste management.
The foundation of Rhode Island’s economy —tourism, small business, boating, fisheries — depends on its policymakers looking beyond the current budget cycle and providing a reliable funding stream for these efforts. We also have the opportunity to recognize the innovation, growth and job creation that will come to our state when we embrace these priorities.
Our coastlines are being threatened by sea level rise. The Coastal Resources Management Council provides Rhode Island with maps predicting a changed shoreline in every coastal community. We must improve the capacity of local communities to respond to these changes by offering education, technical assistance and funding to support resilience and adaption. There is no need to spend any more time questioning the probability of sea level rise. It’s happening.
Off the coast of Rhode Island is a sustainable resource that is becoming a driver of economic growth: wind power. Policymakers must seize the opportunity to ensure that this green industry has the support it needs to grow in a way that respects the needs of those who use the waters for fishing and boating. Governor Raimondo’s mention of this in her State of the State address is a good sign, as is her commitment to 100% renewable electricity by 2030.
Rhode Island’s water supply needs long-term planning and policymakers’ attention. From the reservoirs close to the beach in Newport County, to the cross-bay pipeline that serves the East Bay, to the PFAS-polluted wells in Burrillville, our drinking water faces continued risk. The General Assembly must join with the governor to study these risks and provide stable, long-term funding to address them.
As we all know, Rhode Island faces a grave waste-management problem. The Central Landfill is nearing capacity; the town of Johnston cannot be expected to bear the burden of significant expansion. There is an easy mid-term solution here: produce less waste. At relatively low cost, the state can lead the nation in cutting our waste significantly by limiting the distribution of single-use plastic bags, straws and Styrofoam. We can also establish an aggressive statewide composting program to divert food waste and yard waste from the landfill to our renewed small-farming sector and our own home gardens.
All these issues require our policymakers’ immediate attention, stable funding and focused planning. If we are to protect our precious resources and secure a sustainable, healthy future for our beautiful state, the time to act is now.
Rep. June S. Speakman (D-Dist. 68, Warren, Bristol), Rep. Susan R. Donovan (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth), Rep. Liana Cassar (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence), Rep. Terri Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown) and Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport) all represent coastal communities and share deep concern for the environment.
There will be an Emergency Preparedness Fair on Saturday, Nov 9 from 9am-noon at the Gaudet Middle School in Middletown with displays and representatives from local and state agencies to help answer questions and help plan for the unexpected. There will be emergency vehicles on hand for the kids, and representatives from all three island communities (including local emergency management organizations that are always seeking volunteers!)
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The angels/lie on sidewalks in the rain.
Up from the lost world/buried deep within our brain.
And the saints have piled up in the streets
Their sacred blood staining the sheets
Their halos and bones have been sold
Pried loose before the bodies were cold
And the Rainbow disappears with the dawn
And there's nothing left to carry us on
And there is no salvation to be found
Now that Heaven's underground.
Unending/as the chaos runs its course.
We grind on/pretending
Nothing/left us but remorse.
And the voices that speak in our dreams
Offer comforts as cold as they seem
As faces fade off into noise
And the lost take the Hand that destroys
And there are no stories left to tell
Now that Earth inhabits Hell
and it's worse than it appears.
This brave new world
is just the sum of all your fears.
And each day
follows senseless on the last.
With no way
out of the demon haunted past...
(Spoken: "Dingir.Pazuzu Qatu Dingir.Ishtar")
The Heroes/are dead now
Their bodies/scattered ashes in the deep.
The Prophet/unread now
In the sound and the fury of reason's final sleep.
And all along the roads to the Dome
the dead appear to carry us home
and the angels have begun now to rise
their screaming held back in the skies
and the world is just the walls of a cave...
As we look up the sides of the grave...
And there is no salvation to be found
Now that Heaven's underground