A Look at UWRI’s Legislative Year, 2019

It’s A Wrap

Governor Gina Raimondo introduced her $9.37 billion state budget proposal to the General Assembly in January. Her proposal, which reduced government spending by 0.9%, included revenue sources used by state agencies to make expenditures. Then, in June, the General Assembly returned a budget that focused on business growth, while maintaining funding for education and mental health care.

The final budget included some big wins in areas we advocate for.

2020 Census

Rhode Island Complete Count Committee

The United States Supreme Court ruled that the census will not include a question regarding citizenship. An accurate census count is critical to RI; it directly affects $3 billion of federal funding that supports our schools, the elderly, housing, and bridge/highway repair programs.

The RI budget includes $500,000 to support continued outreach efforts; this is in addition to a $200,000 federal match and $125,000 from United Way of Rhode Island.

Education

Child Care

Childcare licensing will be transferred from the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) to the Department of Human Services (DHS). Also, the Child Care Assistance Program’s family asset limit has been changed to $1 million to be in compliance with Childcare and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) rules.

K-12 Curriculum Standards

An amendment to the RI Board of Education Act mandates that statewide academic standards be reviewed by the commissioner of education, and provides authority for the development of new ones. It also requires that all curriculum framework and state standardized tests meet these standards.

Pre-K

While all 60 State Pre-K classrooms will remain funded, an additional 280 children will be added during the 2019-2020 school year.

Financial Stability

Student Loan Bill of Rights

The passage of the Student Loan Bill of Rights means additional oversight of $4.5 billion in student loan debt and increased protection for the 130,000 Rhode Islanders affected.


Priorities for 2020

Education

United Way’s Rhode Island Afterschool Network (RIAN) submitted a report to the Out-of-School Time Learning Commission that recommended:

  • Dedicated Funding Stream: There’s an urgent need for state investment in the afterschool and youth development system. A dedicated funding stream will help ensure that RI youth have the skills needed to be successful in post-secondary education and the workforce.
  • Director of Out-of-School Time Programming: The director would ensure seamless collaboration between the federal, state, and local funding streams that best meet the needs of RI youth and their families.
  • Statewide Needs Assessment Survey: By administering a survey that includes focus groups and interviews, the state will better understand where additional programs are needed.

Financial Stability

We will continue our efforts to have the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) raised. During this past session, legislation to increase it from 15% to 20% passed the Senate, but failed in the House. In a nationwide effort, more than 60 United Way representatives from across the country lobbied Congress in support of increasing the federal EITC. Although our efforts prevented a potential cut, Congress voted to keep the current rate.

Housing

Advocating for homes that RI families can afford remains a top priority, and will so for the foreseeable future. We will continue working with elected officials, nonprofits, and the community on behalf of the growing number of housing cost burdened Rhode Islanders.

Justice Reform

We will continue our examination of RI’s justice system to determine the best way of mitigating the damaging effects of incarceration on Rhode Islanders.


What’s Next?

Considering Rhode Island’s fiscal challenges, we’re not surprised that new initiatives, which require financial support, were not warmly received. However, we are concerned that legislation around affordable housing and healthcare access was not included.

What can we do?

You can make a difference during the next legislative session by gathering with us at the State House; we’d love for you and your family to come out and show your support.

Do you want to do something right now? Begin laying the foundation by:

  • Calling your legislators and asking them to support investments in affordable housing.
  • Asking your family, friends, and neighbors to lend their voice to our cause.

Note: Federal funds represent 33.5% ($3.14 billion) of the state budget; 76.7% of that goes to fund human services, primarily Medicaid. The next highest amount is from income and sales tax revenue, which equals a combined 27.3%. The remaining funds come from general revenues, lottery transfer, restricted receipt accounts, and miscellaneous funds.