Content starts here
CLOSE ×
Search
AARP AARP States Rhode Island

Netto's Notes: AARP Rhode Island Advocacy Update

Netto's Notes.jpg

Greetings! Matt Netto, AARP Rhode Island Associate State Director of Advocacy here! This is my special place to keep you up to date on AARP Rhode Island's legislative activity and other developments, including Tuesdays at the Statehouse. I'll add info regularly and try to answer any questions. Please reach out to me via email with anything further and scroll below to learn more. Ask me about becoming an AARP Advocacy volunteer.

AARP Rhode Island works with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to support legislation and issues that make our state a great place to live for people of all ages. During the 2024 legislative session we are focused on three priority areas. Financial security, housing/livable communities and long-term supports and services/healthcare.

View our 2024 legislative agenda by clicking here.

March 19, 2024

It has been a busy General Assembly session for the AARP RI Volunteer Advocacy Team! We have already seen progress on some of our top priorities. For example: the ADU bill has passed the House of Representatives and is awaiting a hearing in the Senate!
Keeping the momentum- our resolute advocacy team will be at the State House this week supporting several bills that impact the lives of older Rhode Islanders. As you will note, there are many healthcare related bills being heard by committees this week. Our team will be providing testimony in support of several.

Here is a list of bills that we are watching this week:

  • Accident and Sickness Insurance Policies- House Bill No. 7197: This bill Increases insurance coverage for hearing aids from one thousand five hundred dollars to two thousand dollars, per ear, every three years for all people regardless of age.
  • Medical Debt Reporting-Senate Bill No. 2709: This bill Prohibits hospitals and other medical providers from reporting medical debt to consumer reporting agencies. A violation of this chapter may be pursued on behalf of the consumer by the attorney general.
  • Deceptive Trade-Senate Bill No. 2711: This bill prohibits credit reporting, executions, attachments against a principal residence for judgments based on medical debt. Defines medical debt as an amount for the receipt of health care services, products, or devices.
  • Licensing of Healthcare Facilities-Senate Bill No. 2714: This bill requires all hospitals to screen uninsured patients for eligibility for public health programs and financial assistance under Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Rhode Island Drug Cost Review Commission-Senate Bill No. 2719: This bill creates the Rhode Island drug cost review commission.
  • Temporary Disability Insurance--General Provisions-Senate Bill No. 2121: This bill Includes siblings, grandchildren, care recipient for temporary caregiver benefits of 12 weeks/Increases weekly dependent's allowances from $10 to $20 or 7% of benefit rate whichever is greater.
  • Uniform Telehealth Act-Senate Bill No. 2179: This bill allows an out-of-state health care practitioner to provide telehealth services to a patient located in this state if the services are consistent with the practitioner's scope of practice and state and federal professional standards.
  • Physician Assistants-Senate Bill No. 2182: This bill expands the rights of physician assistants with regard to their practice and prohibits non-compete clauses that exceed five years with regard to the purchase and sale of a practice.
  • Interstate Medical Licensure Compact-Senate Bill No. 2619: This bill requires the state to implement the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact no later than July 1, 2024, and restores access to telemedicine for all residents and allows treatment by out-of-state providers.

State House Tuesdays: Our Advocacy Team goes to the State House twice a month to engage with legislators, share personal stories, and voice their support for important legislation. Their efforts play a crucial role in promoting policies that benefit older adults and our communities. Join us for a Tuesday at the State House! If you want more information about Tuesdays at the State House or how you can get involved with the AARP RI Advocacy Team contact Matt at 401-248-2660 or mnetto@aarp.org.





Feb 20, 2024

FINANCIAL SECURITY

AARP encourages lawmakers to implement policies that encourage financial resiliency for all Rhode Islanders. Passing legislation that provides access to savings tools, safeguards against fraud and exploitation, and keeps hard earned money in the pockets of older Rhode Islanders will be top priorities for AARP Rhode Island in 2024.

Eliminate The State Tax on Social Security
Assuring that our members are financially secure in retirement is a key component of our advocacy. Rhode Island is one of only 11 states that tax hard-earned Social Security benefits. Rhode Island state tax on Social Security benefits undermines the purpose of Social Security, which was designed to lift seniors out of poverty – not to fund state government. Whether it is raising the income thresholds under existing law or a complete exemption of Social Security benefits from taxation, AARP supports all efforts to keep more hard-earned money in the pockets of older Rhode Islanders.

Secure Choice
About 40% of Rhode Island’s private sector employees do not have access to a retirement savings plan through their employer. Under Secure Choice, private sector employees are automatically enrolled into an Auto IRA type retirement program overseen by the state, with investments run by the private sector.

Rhode Island, like many other states, is facing a retirement crisis. The average Social Security benefit in Rhode Island is about $22,000 a year, while on average older families spend $30,000 a year on food, utilities, and health care alone. At this rate, one out of every two middle class retirees will be unable to afford their basic needs in retirement. This will cost RI taxpayers down the line in the form of public assistance program increases.

Secure Choice has been enacted in 18 states to date. In Connecticut, the program led to over 21,0000 workers saving over $11 million dollars in the first year of operation. These savings would not have been realized without Secure Choice. We urge legislators to pass Secure Choice.

Fighting Fraud and Exploitation
Consumer fraud is soaring. Reported losses to fraud skyrocketed to $8.8 billion in 2022, an increase of more than 30 percent from a year earlier, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). While education empowers older Americans to protect themselves, more tools are needed to eliminate this large-scale problem. That’s why AARP advocates for laws and regulations at the state and federal levels to protect older adults. 

This legislative session AARP Rhode Island will work with the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office to advocate for a bill that will require owners of cryptocurrency ATMs to post warnings about the risk of scams. Over 100 cryptocurrency ATMs are located in convenience stores, laundromats, and liquor stores across the state. These machines are not regulated and are utilized as a payment method in a variety of scams. Rhode Islanders need to be informed about the risks of these machines and the scammers that utilize them to steal hard earned money. 

HOUSING & LIVABLE COMMUNITIES

The 2023 AARP Rhode Island Vital Voices survey showed that 85% of older adults in our state express that it is very important to them to be able stay in their own home as they get older. For this to be a possibility we must address the lack of housing options for older adults and make our communities safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists. We encourage legislators to pass meaningful legislation that will lead to affordable and accessible housing in communities that are designed for all people to live in.

Accessory Dwelling Units
AARP encourages lawmakers to help older adults live safely and independently in their communities. Accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, have potential to improve the lives of older adults, family caregivers, and people of all ages. An ADU is a small residence that shares a single-family lot with a larger, primary dwelling. It is an independent living space with its own kitchen or kitchenette, bathroom and sleeping area.

ADUs can be found in cities, in suburbs and in rural areas, yet are often invisible from view because they’re positioned behind or are indistinct from the main house. Rhode Island’s 2023 Vital Voices survey showed that 79% of Rhode Islanders support town ordinances that make it easier for property owners to create an ADU.

Complete Streets
A Complete Street is safe and convenient for travel by automobile, foot, bicycle, and transit for everyone in the community regardless of age or ability.

 The focus of Complete Streets initiatives is to encourage local, regional, and state planning agencies to change policies so that multimodal transportation options are considered in project development from the beginning.

Accessible Housing Stock
Housing should meet the needs of all individuals, regardless of age and ability level. Accessible housing, which accommodates people of all ages and ability levels, is crucial to the majority of Americans who say they would like to remain in their homes as they age. Most existing housing stock and new construction are multi-level with stairs. This can pose a challenge for those who develop problems with mobility, especially as they age. Policymakers should establish accessibility requirements or incentives on new housing development.

Public Transportation
Livable communities offer transportation options that improve health, support vibrant neighborhoods and connect people to economic and social opportunities throughout their communities. A variety of safe, affordable, dependable and user-friendly travel options enables people of all ages to stay active and engaged in their communities.

State leaders must find a stable funding solution for RIPTA. Securing new and diverse funding streams will not only achieve financial stability but allow for the expansion of service to meet the needs of a growing population that requires access to the equitable and supportive travel option that public transit provides

Property Taxes
Real estate values in Rhode Island have skyrocketed and future home assessments will likely lead to higher property taxes. The property tax is the most burdensome tax for many individuals with low incomes and older people. It affects people directly as homeowners and indirectly as renters. Landlords may pass on tax burdens in the form of higher rents.
 
We encourage lawmakers to explore ways to provide Property tax relief that is equitable, cost-effective, and targeted to homeowners with low and moderate incomes. Ways to achieve this may include homestead exemptions, property tax deferral programs, and circuit breaker tax program enhancements.

LONG-TERM SUPPORTS AND SERVICES & HEALTHCARE


Support for Family Caregivers
Rhode Island’s estimated 121,000 unpaid family caregivers provide 113 million hours of care to their loved ones each year. Every day, these family caregivers assist their older parents, spouses, siblings, grandparents, and other loved ones so they can live independently in their homes – where they want to be. AARP is calling on legislators to support these caregivers in two important ways:

  • Expand Rhode Island’s Temporary Caregivers Insurance program so that it offers 12 weeks per year and expands the definition of whom one can care for to include siblings and grandparents
  • Explore ways to offset the financial costs of caring for a family member including caregiver tax credits or other reimbursement programs.

Long-term Care and Direct Care Staffing
Nursing home residents deserve the highest standard of care, and taxpayers deserve accountability for the state Medicaid funding that supports the nursing home industry. AARP urges legislators to:

  • Incentivize nursing homes to create more single occupancy rooms with private bathrooms by offering a 20% increase in reimbursement on such units.
  • Help nursing homes and other care facilities to recruit and retain staff by bringing our Medicaid Reimbursement rates in line with neighboring states

Telemedicine
We encourage lawmakers to pass the Telemedicine Coverage Act to clarify that the patient-provider relationship may be established through either synchronous or asynchronous telemedicine technologies without a prior in-person visit, so long as the standard of care can be met.

This legislation can have a significant impact on older adults, people with mobility issues, and people living in rural areas. It will help reduce or eliminate travel and wait times, distance and transportation barriers, and certain travel or transportation costs of in-person healthcare.

Rx Drug Affordability
AARP urges legislators to ensure prescription drug prices are reasonable, justified, and support improved consumer access and affordability. Wholesale bulk purchasing of prescription drugs from Canada or setting payment limits in line with the International Reference Rates are two options that would help Rhode Islanders afford their medications. Rhode Islanders should not be paying 3x more for the same drug and dosage as residents of other countries. We need to implement state level policies that will ensure that Rhode Islanders are not having to choose between purchasing their medications, eating healthy, or paying utilities.



July 5, 2023

2023’s Legislative Session Outcomes 

Here is a list of 10 bills, supported by the AARP Rhode Island that passed during the 2023 legislative session. They will have positive impacts on housing, financial security, health insurance plan, and public transportation in our state. AARP is thankful for the support of volunteers and activists that spoke up and made a difference this year.  

  • Substitute Teaching/Teacher’s retirement Adds a section to the Teacher’s retirement law which allows substitute teachers and post-retirement employees to exceed the ninety (90) day cap on post-retirement employment if certain conditions are met. This act would take effect upon passage and sunset on June 20, 2024. 
  •  Gift Card Fraud Requires sellers of gift cards to post notice warning of scams/instructing consumers what to do as victims/violations punishable by a civil fine of $250.
  • Tenant and landlord’s right guide- Powers and duties Empowers the secretary of housing to create a written guide for consumers relating to the rights and duties of landlords and tenants, updated on an annual basis, at a minimum. This act would take effect January 1, 2024. 
  • Accident and Sickness Insurance Policies-Specialty drugs Requires health plans that provide coverage for prescription epinephrine auto injectors (epi-pens) to charge no more than $35.00 for a thirty-day supply. Coverage for prescription epinephrine auto injectors would not be subject to any deductible. This act shall take effect upon passage. This act would take effect on January 1, 2025. 
  • Medicare Supplement Insurance Policies- Standards for policy provisions Provides all Medicare recipients over sixty-five (65) years of age applying for Medicare supplement plan guaranteed issue rights regardless of medical or health or receipt of health care by the applicant. This act would take effect July 1, 2023. 
  • Towns and Cities-Zoning Ordinances Provides that adaptive reuse for the conversion of commercial property into residential or mixed-use developments shall be a permitted use and allowable by specific and objective provisions of a zoning ordinance. This act would take effect on January 1, 2024
  • Towns and Cities-Zoning Ordinances and Transit-oriented development pilot program Creates the transit-oriented development pilot program to encourage residential housing near convenient public transportation. This act would take effect on January 1, 2024. 
  • Housing Production Revolving Fund Creates the Housing Production Revolving Fund through the issuance of $50,000,000 in housing bonds by the department of housing to provide affordable housing for low-income households (Included in FY24 Budget with $10m appropriated).
  • FY24 budget appropriations for priority programs Included $250,000 for the Livable Home Modification Grant Program; $250,000 for ADRC (The Point). 
  • Nurse Licensure 2 Compact This bill amends the interstate nurse licensure compact and adopts an enhanced and more comprehensive version of the compact, to allow nurses to hold a multi-state license allowing them to practice across state lines without having to obtain multiple licenses. This act would take effect on January 1, 2024, and would sunset and expire on January 1, 4 2027. 

View the 2023 AARP Rhode Island Legislative Results Powerpoint

Want to learn more about how you can get involved? Email me at mnetto@aarp.org 

May 24 LEGISLATIVE UPDATE



Matt Netto welcomes Rep. Susan R. Donovan, Chairwoman of House Health and Human Services Committee. Watch.

May 10, 2023

Many bills supported by AARP RI are being heard in the Rhode Island State House this week, including legislation on housing, prescription drug prices, and retirement savings, including the following:

Financial Security in Retirement

Assuring that our members are financially secure in retirement is a key component of AARP RI advocacy. Eliminating the income tax on Social Security and establishing a Secure Choice Retirement Savings program are two essential ways that the Rhode Island General Assembly could improving financial resiliency in retirement for older Rhode Islanders:

  • Eliminate Social Security Income Tax: On Tuesday, May 9, the House Finance Committee held a hearing for HB 5145, which would eliminate the income tax Rhode Islanders pay on their hard-earned benefit. Rhode Island is one of 11 states that taxes Social Security benefits. Taxing Social Security undermines the objective of the benefit, which is to alleviate poverty for seniors. This is why AARP RI is in support of this legislation.
  • Secure Choice: On Thursday, May 11, the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing for SB 545. This is legislation that would establish employer-provided retirement savings vehicles for small businesses to offer their employees. This gives employees the opportunity to save for retirement at no cost to the employer.  If you would like to submit testimony in support of this legislation, you can do so HERE.

    What Can I Do?
    Click below to send an email to tell your elected state officials
    All Rhode Islanders Need Access To A Retirement Savings Plan

Watch our latest Facebook Secure Choice video post. For more information, please visit www.aarp.org/risecurechoice

Expanding Affordable and Accessible Housing

Older Rhode Islanders need more housing options. Older adults want to remain in their homes and communities as they age yet lack accessible and affordable options to do so in our state.

  • Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs): The House Committee on Municipal Government and Housing heard testimony on HB 6082 A and passed the bill out of committee in a vote of 7 to 1! It will soon go to the House floor for a vote. This is a great step forward to expanding affordable and accessible housing for Rhode Islanders!

    Your voices are powerful! And there is still work to be done. Let your representative know that Rhode Islanders need more age-friendly housing options by going to: https://action.aarp.org/secure/older-rhode-islanders-need-more-housing-options-0

Watch our latest Facebook ADU video post.

Lowering the Cost of Prescription Drugs

Rhode Island seniors are particularly vulnerable to the high cost of prescription drugs. AARP supports the following legislation to lower the cost of prescription drugs and cap out-of-pocket expenses for consumers.

  • Reference Rates & Wholesale Importation: On Tuesday, May 9, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony from AARP RI on two bills that you lower the cost of prescription drugs in Rhode Island. SB 98 would use international references rates to establish upper payment limits on 250 of the state’s most expensive prescription drugs.  SB 99 would seek federal approval for a to import prescription medication on a wholesale basis from Canada.
  • Co-payment Cap: SB 726  and SB 871 limit the copayment or coinsurance requirement on specialty drugs to $150 for a 30 day supply. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee will hold hearings for both bills on Thursday, May 11.

April 11, 2023

Addressing the High Cost of Prescription Drugs Rhode Islanders across the state are faced with high costs of prescription drugs, and seniors are particularly vulnerable to endless substantial escalations in their prescription drug costs. AARPRI is in support of legislation that address the affordability of prescription drugs, including the following:

  • Wholesale Importation: Legislation has been introduced in the RI General Assembly that would establish a state-administered wholesale drug importation program. SB 99 and HB 5430 would authorize the state to seek federal approval for a to import prescription medication on a wholesale basis from Canada. This would allow the state to contract with a regulated Canadian supplier and, in doing so, save money for the state and the consumer.
  • Reference Rate: By using international reference pricing, payors could see significant savings on their annual drug spending. SB 98 and HB 5431 that would set upper payment limits for certain drugs based on international reference rates and prohibit public payors and health plans from purchasing referenced drugs at a higher cost than the referenced rate.
  • Drug Affordability Board: HB 5507 creates a Prescription Drug Affordability/Group Purchasing Board to ensure that prescription drug launch prices and subsequent pricing decisions are reasonable, justified, and support improved consumer access and affordability. The Board would have the authority to set a rate, upper limit, or spending target, that some or all payers in the state would follow. The bill also establishes a stakeholder council to assist the board.

Affordable, Accessible Housing Options Housing is unaffordable for a one-third of Americans. When people spend high portions of their income on housing, it jeopardizes their ability to pay for other basic necessities. AARP is in support of legislation that provides more affordable accessible housing options for Rhode Islanders, including the following:

  • Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs): ADUs are an age-friendly housing option for Rhode Island families, older adults, and caregivers. HB 6082 addresses almost all of the major issues that restrict ADU creation and utilization across the state and expands the “by right” definition so that more people across the state have access to this important, accessible housing option. HB 5599 would regulate short-term renting of ADUs. HB 5204 would create a guide of landlord-tenant laws.
  • Transit Oriented Housing Pilot: A livable community is one that is safe and secure and offers choices in where to live and how to get around. HB 6084 would establish a transit-oriented development pilot program to encourage residential housing near convenient public. HB 6090  would allow adaptive reuse for the conversion of commercial property into residential or mixed-use developments to create more housing supply.

March 14, 2023

AARP RI hosted our first Legislative Reception since the start of the pandemic. General Assembly members were able to speak one on one with AARP members and hear what policies are important to older Rhode Islanders. AARP RI’s 2023 Legislative Priorities include the Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program (HB 5417 & SB 545),  Accessory Dwelling Units (HB 6082), Enhanced Medicaid Rate for Nursing Home Single Occupancy Rooms (HB 5798), Temporary Caregiver Insurance (HB 5781 & SB 139) and Gift Card Scam Prevention (HB 5732).

52717897332_322e858f5c_c (1).jpg

We would like to sincerely thank Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio, Speaker of the House K. Joseph Shekarchi, and Rhode Island General Treasurer James A. Diossa for speaking at this event.  You can watch the speaking program, including remarks from State Director Catherine Taylor, from our reception on Capital TV. Click here to view more event photos.

Financial Security is a top priority for AARP RI.  Retirement savings are an essential component of healthy aging for Rhode Islanders.

We testified legislation in support of the Rhode Island Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program (HB 5417 & SB 89). 40% of Rhode Island private sector employees do not have access to retirement savings vehicles through their employer.  Under Secure Choice, all private sector employees (at employers with 5+ employees) are eligible to enroll into a portable, voluntary Auto IRA-type retirement program overseen by the state, with investments run by the private sector. This type of retirement savings program is beneficial to employers, as well. Three-quarters of Rhode Island small business agree that voluntary, portable retirement savings are helpful in recruitment and retention of local small business employees.

Read our testimony.

Legislation has been introduced in the Rhode Island General Assembly that would eliminate the Social Security payroll tax in RI (SB 84) and increase the threshold on the taxable Social Security income (SB 246). The average Social Security benefit in Rhode Island is about $22,000 a year, while older families in Rhode Island spend on average $30,000 a year on food, utilities, and health care alone.  State taxes on Social Security benefits in Rhode Island undermines the purpose of Social Security, which was designed to lift seniors out of poverty – not to fund state government.  

Read our testimony.

RESOURCES
Daily Bill Introductions: https://status.rilegislature.gov/daily_introductions.aspx
Committee Calendar: https://status.rilegislature.gov/legislative_committee_calendar.aspx
Floor Calendar: https://status.rilegislature.gov/calendars.aspx
Bill Search Tool: https://status.rilegislature.gov/


January 31, 2023

With the 2023 Rhode Island General Assembly is now in session, here are some of AARP Rhode Island’s legislative priorities for the upcoming year:

RISavers (Secure Choice): Over 172,000 Rhode Islanders do not have access to a retirement savings program through their employers. RISavers (2022 S 2014/2022 H 8048) is a retirement savings program that would provide an easy and accessible way for the Rhode Islanders to save for retirement through their employer. There will be a press conference on this issue Tuesday, February 14th at the Rhode Island State House.

Affordable and Accessible Housing: Everyone deserves the opportunity to choose how and where they live as they age. Though the passage of the Accessory Dwelling Unit bill (2022 H 7942 Sub B/2022 S 2623 Sub A) was a major success, there are still ways the bill can be strengthened to allow for more Rhode Islanders to utilize this important, accessible housing.

Single Occupancy Rooms: Nursing homes should be assisted and incentivized in transforming existing structures to single occupancy rooms (2022 S 2598/2022 H 7615), as every nursing home resident deserves a dignified and safe space to live.

Temporary Caregivers Insurance: AARP RI supports legislation that would create a tiered wage replacement system, increase the number of weeks a person can use annually, and expand the definition of who worker can care for to include grandchildren and siblings.

Gift Card Scams: AARP Rhode Island is working to have legislation introduced that would require point of sale signage about gift card scams and training for employees on what to look for to identify someone being scammed and who to contact. This is to protect against con artists who have latched onto gift cards as a convenient form of payment in their scams.

Our legislative successes would not be possible without the incredible work of our advocacy volunteers! If you would like to learn more or would like to join us in advocating for older Rhode Islanders, please email me at mnetto@aarp.org.

December 5, 2022
Listen to Matt on WADK's Elder Affairs broadcast.

August 16, 2022

AARP led the fight to lower drug prices, and we won. After decades of calling on Congress to make prescription drugs more affordable, AARP won the fight for Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices and help seniors get relief from out-of-control prescription drug prices. The President has signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law. Millions of seniors will save money on their medications.

The bill will not only save money for millions of seniors, but it will also save lives by:

  • Allowing Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs
  • Limiting the cost of insulin to $35/month for people on Medicare
  • Penalizing drug companies for raising their prices higher than inflation
  • Giving people in Medicare drug plans peace of mind knowing they won't have to pay more than $2,000 a year for their medications
  • Making many vaccines, such as shingles, available at no cost in Medicare

A big thank you to all the activists and volunteers who made your voices heard, especially the volunteers who are part of the AARP RI Federal Liaison Team who met with members of Congress to advocate for these life-changing provisions.

While this is a historic victory, our role as a fierce defender does not end here. AARP won't stop fighting big drug companies out-of-control prices until all Americans 50+ can afford their medication. Medication doesn't work if you can't afford it.

July 1, 2022

The Rhode Island General Assembly session has adjourned.  Thank you to all the volunteers who helped make this such a successful session of advocating for policies that support the 50+ population in Rhode Island.

Here is a breakdown of the policy priorities we focused on this session:

AFFORDABLE, ACCESSABLE HOUSING — The General Assembly passed H-7942/S-2623 which will increase access and utilization of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and provide age-friendly housing options for older adults, family caregivers, and people of all ages and abilities. The bill is now awaiting the governor’s signature to be signed into law.

EXPANDING VOTER ACCESS — Governor McKee signed the Let RI Vote Act into law. This law makes voting safer, easier, and more accessible for all Rhode Islanders.  Some of the major provisions of the bill include No-Excuse Mail Ballots and Emergency Voting, Online Mail Ballot Applications, Permanent Absentee List Opt-In for Nursing Home Residents, No Witness or Notary Requirement to Vote by Mail, Multilingual Voter Information Hotline, Community Ballot Drop Boxes Maintained by the Board of Elections, Reduced Application Deadline for Braille Ballot, and Voter Registration List Maintenance.

LONG-TERM SERVICES AND SUPPORTS — The Medicaid Rate Review process has been established. Because Rhode Island had not reviewed rates consistently, it led to lower reimbursement to Rhode Island providers and resulted in lower wages for healthcare workers. Direct care workers in Rhode Island will also see an increase in their starting pay to $15 an hour.

LIVABLE HOME MODIFICATION — The budget for the Livable Home Modification Grant Program has been increased to $985,743.  This means that there is over $400,000 of additional funds that can be used for home modification and accessibility enhancements to construct, retrofit, and/or renovate residences to allow individuals to remain in community settings. This will be in consultation with the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. All unexpended or unencumbered balances, at the end of the fiscal year, shall be appropriated to the ensuing fiscal year, and made immediately available for the same purpose.

BROADBAND DEVELOPMENT— A Broadband Director and the Broadband Advisory Committee have been created. The Broadband Director will be responsible for connecting with federal agencies to access federal funds for broadband infrastructure deployment pursuant to federal grants, facilitating broadband service adoption, expanding digital literacy for residents experiencing economic hardship, and for future economic development. The Broadband Advisory Council shall advise the executive office of commerce on broadband implementation efforts undertaken by the agency including, but not limited to, the development of a state strategic plan and broadband-related investment strategies. This is an important development for Rhode Island due to the fact that for many years we have missed out on Federal money for internet because we did not have a Broadband Director.

ELDER EXPLOITATION – Following the passage of S-2228, the definition of an elderly person in regard to exploitation has changed from someone who is 65 years old to someone who is 60 years old, making the definition of an elderly person consistent with state law.

CIRCUIT BREAKER PROPERTY TAXES — The Circuit Breaker Property Tax Credit Program has been enhanced. This property tax credit is for older Rhode Islanders and those with disabilities that have a maximum income of $35,000 and whose property taxes take up more than 6% of their annual income. The maximum credit is now $600.

HOME AND COMMUNITY-BASED SERVICES — The proposed Perry Sullivan one-year exemption has been eliminated. This preserves $38.6 million for home and community-based services for 2023.

Thank you again to all of our amazing advocates who worked hard to get these measures passed this session. If you would like to find out more about this group of volunteers or how you can join please reach out to Matt at mnetto@aarp.org



June 14, 2022

Members of the AARP RI Federal Liaison Team attended the New England Council’s luncheon with Congressman James Langevin. This group of volunteers ensures that Rhode Island’s elected officials in Washington know what AARP is working on locally and also to advocate for Federal legislation that will improve the lives of older Rhode Islanders. You may be interested in learning more about our Federal Liaison Team or other Advocacy volunteer opportunities. We'd love to hear from you. Reach out to Advocacy Director, Matt Netto, at 401-248-2660 or mnetto@aarp.org

Langevin photo.jpg

June 8, 2022

Let RI Vote Act Bill Signed into Law Today, the Let RI Vote Act was signed into law by Governor McKee. This bill will expand access and opportunity to vote in Rhode Island and give voters easier and more secure options to cast their votes.

Vote 2.jpg

Major provisions of the bill include:

  • No-Excuse Mail Ballots and Emergency Voting
  • Online Mail Ballot Applications
  • Permanent Absentee List Opt-In for Nursing Home Residents
  • No Witness or Notary Requirement to Vote by Mail
  • Multilingual Voter Information Hotline
  • Community Ballot Drop Boxes Maintained by the Board of Elections
  • Reduced Application Deadline for Braille Ballot
  • Voter Registration List Maintenance

May 31, 2022

Let RI Vote Act Update: The RI General Assembly has voted to pass the Let RI Vote Act and expand voter access for Rhode Islanders! Your dedicated advocacy and support played an integral part of the passage of this important bill to make voting in our state more accessible! The bill awaits signing into law by the governor.

ADU Bill Update: Thanks to your advocacy, the House voted 52-9 to pass the bill on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)! The next step is for the bill to go to a vote in the Senate. To continue to make this bill a priority, you can send a message to your senator in support of this bill, which will provide age-friendly housing options for older adults, family caregivers and people of all ages and abilities, and urge them to bring the ADU bill to the floor for a vote.

H 7123 Article 1, Amendment 18: Rhode Island is facing a direct care and nursing workforce shortage in our long-term services and supports (LTSS) programs due to lack of accessible staff training, inadequate wages, and job stress. AARP is in support of Health Care Workforce Supports and Health Care System Supports outlined in Governor's Budget Amendment 18 in H 7123, Article 1.

The proposed budget amendment would…

  • Allocate $6.0 million general revenue to the Department of Labor and Training to coordinate with Skills RI and partner with Rhode Island healthcare systems to facilitate the outreach, recruitment, screening, placement, onboarding, supportive services, training curriculum assistance, and outcome reporting of medical personnel to address the heightened need for healthcare services in the state.
  • Allocate $0.5 million to the Community College of Rhode Island to fund four staff positions, stipends for students, and marketing and advertising costs to support the training of certified nursing assistants, licensed practical nurses, and registered nurses.
  • Allocate $5.0 million in general revenue to finance a competitive grant program for nursing homes to better serve at-risk populations with specialized needs.

Read our Testimony


May 9, 221

Let RI Vote Act Update: Thanks to your strong advocacy, the Senate voted to pass the Let RI Vote Act! While this is an important victory, the bill has not yet been voted out of committee in the House. Your voice is powerful, and we need your help now more than ever to send a clear message that it's time to pass #LetRIVote -- Can you help us make voter access a priority? Send a quick message directly to House Leadership and urge them to bring the Let RI Vote Act to the floor for a vote by the House of Representatives HERE

Learn More About the Let RI Vote Act

Watch Message from AARP Rhode Island State Director, Catherine Taylor

Read Our Testimony


April 28, 2022

AARP Rhode Island had a busy week testifying on bills whose subjects involved: Rate Review and Rate Setting for Medicaid (S.B. 2200 and S.B. 2311), Single-Occupancy Rooms in residential care settings (S.B. 2598 and H.B. 7615), and Circuit Breaker Property Taxes (H.B. 7127). Learn more about these bills and read our testimony.

S.B. 2200 and would…

  • Require Executive Office of Health and Human Services, assisted by a 24-member advisory committee, to provide review for rate setting of social service programs licensed by state departments/agencies and Medicaid.

S.B. 2311 would…

  • Also provide for rate setting and review for Medicaid and all medical programs that are licensed or have a contract with the state but includes additional stakeholders that should be considered for the committee developed under the bill, for example, appointed members “reflect the diversity of the state.”

About Reimbursement Rate Review and Rate Setting…

  • Rate review is the process of reviewing and reporting of specific trending factors that influence the cost of service that informs rate setting.
  • Rate setting is the process of establishing rates for medical and clinical service programs that are based on a thorough rate review process.
  • Research suggests that higher Medicaid reimbursement is associated with better care. State governments should ensure that Medicaid reimbursement is sufficient to guarantee access to the full range of high-quality long-term services and supports in all service settings.
  • Medicaid reimbursement should be enough to ensure a viable, reasonable choice of services, settings, and providers, including home and community-based services and a participant direction option with necessary supports.
  • Reimbursement rates allow facilities the ability to offer a livable and fair wage to their workers.

Read our testimony.

S.B. 2598 and H.B. 7615 would…

  • Provide a 20% add-on to the Medicaid per diem rate for nursing homes that have single occupancy rooms and bathrooms.

About Single-Occupancy Rooms…

  • Residents in both nursing homes and residential care settings strongly prefer private rooms and bathrooms.
  • Single-occupancy room models in nursing homes, assisted living residences, and other licensed residential care facilities promote privacy and dignity, while also mitigating the spread of infectious disease.
  • Currently in Rhode Island, many nursing homes have double occupancy rooms with a privacy curtain separating the two individuals who live in a space of 160 square feet and share a restroom. Often, four residents use the same toilet and sink. A shower room is usually located at the end of the hall for all residents on that floor. These arrangements can lead to the tragic spread of infections, as we’ve seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read our testimony.

H.B. 7127 would…

  • Provide targeted property tax relief to households with the heaviest tax burdens relative to their incomes.
  • Increase the maximum income level to $50,000 and maximum credit amount to $850 for property tax relief with annual adjustment for inflation that would not exceed 12%.

About Circuit Breaker Property Taxes…

  • Like the circuit breaker in an electrical panel, property tax circuit breakers are “tripped” when property taxes exceed a set threshold percentage of income.
  • Increasing property taxes are often burdensome for many residents to absorb, particularly those who are older and lower income, and can interfere with the ability of residents to age in own homes and communities. Circuit breaker programs are designed to provide targeted relief to seniors who need it most – those who are lower and moderate income.
  • Over 30 states have circuit breaker programs because they protect residents by providing relief to those who need it most, as well as funding for vital services.

April 12, 2022

AARP Rhode Island and its advocacy volunteers continue to fight for State House legislation to make it easier obtain local permits for construction of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) -- living units that provide age-friendly housing options for older adults, family caregivers and people of all ages and abilities. 

AARP testified at hearings on April 5th  and April 12th on H.B. 7942 and S.B. 2623 Sub A.  

H.B. 7942 would…

  • Allow for ADUs to take various forms including, but not limited to a detached unit; a unit that is part of an accessory structure, such as a detached garage; or a unit that is part of an expanded or remodeled primary dwelling.
  • Not restrict tenants based on familial relationship or age unless such restriction is necessary to comply with the terms of a federal subsidy related to affordability.
  • Not limit ADUs to owner occupied properties, unlike under the current law.

S.B. 2623 Sub A would address…

  • ADU-specific regulations that don’t also apply to primary dwellings (e.g., owner-occupancy requirements, familial restrictions, rental restrictions).
  • Complex design compatibility criteria and approval steps.
  • Restrictions that limit ADUs to certain areas, particular zoning categories, or to large lots.
  • Caps on square footage relative to the primary house that make it easy to add an ADU to a large home but hard or impossible to add one to a small home. 

About ADUs…

  • ADUs are an economical housing option that benefits not only homeowners and renters but the community and state as a whole.
  • According to AARP Rhode Island’s November 2021 Vital Voices Survey over half (54%) of Rhode Island residents age 45+ would consider creating an ADU if the space was available, and a strong majority (84%) said they strongly support or somewhat support town ordinances that make it easier for property owners to create an ADU.
  • AARP Rhode Island advocacy work has clearly shown that enacting laws and creating programs that allow residents to age in place are also fiscally beneficial to the state of Rhode Island.

April 6, 2022

AARP RI Continues to Advocate for Fair Rx Prices NOW. Last week the House Committee on Health and Human Services held hearings on H.B. 7876, a RX Drug Importation program, and H.B. 7877, a Prescription Drug Cost Protection program, both of which would help address unaffordable drug prescription costs. The Senate companion bills (S.B. 2070 and S.B. 2076) were heard in committee a few weeks ago. Below are details on the bills alongside the written testimony in support of these bills.

H.B. 7876 would…

  • Authorize the state of Rhode Island to seek federal approval to import prescription medication on a wholesale basis from Canada
  • Allow the state itself to contract with a fully licensed, regulated supplier from Canada that is required to provide only drugs that are fully regulated and compliant with that country’s laws.
  • Allow Rhode Island to distribute those drugs under the procedures determined by the state program.

About the RX Drug Importation program…

  • Policymakers have long looked to Canada as a potential source for savings, where prescription drugs cost, on average, 30 percent less than in the U.S.  For drugs imported under this program, states could make sure savings are passed on to payors and consumers to help them afford their medications.
  • Under a state importation program, pharmacies could also provide the same lower Canadian prices when selling to uninsured customers or people paying out-of-pocket during their deductible period.
  • The size of savings and which consumers would benefit depends on how a state structures its program.  State officials in Vermont have estimated a possible savings of $5 million annually based on a list of specific birth control, insulin and pricey medications for HIV and multiple sclerosis that might be included in the program. Similarly, Florida projected that its program would save over $150 million dollars annually when fully operational, based on a concept paper the state submitted to the federal government in August 2019.  

H.B. 7877 would…

  • Set up a process to determine which drugs the program would set upper payment limits for and what those limits would be
  • Apply this upper payment limit to state-regulated purchasers such as small group and individual private insurance plans and state government-run plans.

About the Prescription Drug Cost Protection program …

  • The international reference rate – which becomes a state’s upper payment limit for a drug – is the lowest price found across the four most populous Canadian provinces. When provincial prices are not available, the ceiling price published by Canada’s Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB) becomes the reference rate. The PMDRB’s price determination references median drug prices from a basket of several other developed nations.
  • By using international reference pricing, payors could see significant savings on their annual drug spending.  For example, the average U.S. price of the rheumatoid arthritis drug Xeljanz is about 450% higher than the proposed Canadian reference price. 

All of these bills have been held for further study.

March 31, 2022

Today the Senate Committee on Labor will hold a hearing on S.B. 2245, which would add important enhancements to the Temporary Caregivers Insurance program. Below are the details as well as AARP Rhode Island's written testimony submitted in support of this bill.

S.B. 2245 would…

  • 1. Increase the numbers of weeks one can take Temporary Caregivers Insurance (paid leave) from 6 to 10.
  • 2. Expand the list of who you can take care of to include grandchildren and siblings.
  • 3. Increase the weekly dependents allowance from $10 to $20.

About the TCI program…

  • Rhode Island is a leader in providing security for workers and their families through the Temporary Caregiver Insurance (TCI) program. One of only 10 state based paid leave programs, TCI provides up to five weeks of partial (about 60%) wage replacement for workers who need to take time from their jobs to bond with a newborn, bond with an adopted or foster child, or care for a seriously ill family member. The worker’s job and seniority are protected while the worker is on leave.
  • TCI is an expansion of the Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) fund, created in 1942 to provide wage-replacement benefits to workers injured outside the workplace. To be eligible for TCI, claimants must have worked in Rhode Island and paid into TDI. TCI is funded solely through employee contributions to the fund.
  • In 2021, 7,031 workers used TCI, to either take time from work to bond with a new child (75% of claimants) or provide care for a seriously ill family member (25% of claimants). The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of Rhode Islanders needing to rely on TCI to manage home and work responsibilities and reinforced the need to improve the program.
  • Rhode Island’s TCI provides a maximum of 5 weeks of paid leave (scheduled to increase to 6 weeks in January 2023). This is the shortest length of any Paid Family Leave policy in the country. Other states provide double or triple this time, providing between 8-12 weeks of paid leave. Many of these other states also provide extended durations of paid leave for serious medical conditions and/or complications relating to pregnancy. Rhode Island’s 4 weeks of paid leave do not meet public health and medical guidelines for new parents and many other caregiving needs.

    Read our testimony.


January 3, 2022

Happy New Year! We are geared up for a busy General Assembly session. Over the past few months I have worked with colleagues and volunteers to develop our 2022 legislative priorities. We plan to focus on four areas in urgent need of attention – the high cost of prescription drugs; the lack of affordable, accessible housing; long term services and support (LTSS); and voter access.

On drug costs, we will be working with state leaders and bill sponsors to address affordability, transparency, caps on out-of-pocket expenses, wholesale importation and more.

On affordable and accessible housing we will work to change Rhode Island’s restrictive Auxiliary Dwelling Unit (ADU) laws. We will also seek increased funding for the Livable Home Modification Grant Program, enhancements to Rhode Island’s the Circuit Breaker Property Tax program, and wise investment of ARPA funds in affordable, accessible housing.

We will also work to implement LTSS reforms, supportive housing options, and solutions to the direct care workforce shortage.  And we will also advocate for expansion of paid family leave to support family caregivers, the backbone of the long-term care system.

In this important election year, we will also be on Smith Hill urging passage of legislation to codify voter access changes put in place during the 2020 election and the COVID-19 pandemic, including:   no-excuse mail voting, a permanent absentee voter list, voter registration list maintenance, enhanced signature verification, early voting, ballot drop boxes, no witness requirements a new primary election date and same-day registration.

There is so much at stake. We will need as much help as possible to accomplish our goals. Please consider joining the ranks of our passionate State House advocacy volunteers who are so critical to our legislative success!  Email me at mnetto@aarp.org or give me a call at 401-248-2660 to learn more.

September 15, 2021

The 2021 Rhode Island Legislative Session was unlike any that has come before it. The State House being closed to the public and all meetings being held virtually was a unique challenge and changed the way in which everyone operated. Thankfully, AARP Rhode Island volunteers stepped up in a big way to ensure a successful session for older Rhode Islanders. From learning to manage, host, and participate in virtual meetings to providing testimony over the phone, AARP Rhode Island volunteers adapted to and overcame all challenges.

A special thank you goes to our community partners and legislative sponsors, who we worked with to draft, promote, and introduce so many important pieces of legislation.

Take a look at this document that lists all of the bills that AARP Rhode Island supported during the 2021 Legislative Session. You will see that while we succeeded in passing many bills, there are also many that we couldn’t get through this year. We look forward to continuing working with sponsors and volunteers on these important pieces of legislation. If you have any questions about any of these bills or would like to know how you can help us in 2022 please reach out to me at 401-834-0524 or mnetto@aarp.org

20210830_152537538_iOS.jpg

August 30, 2021
Governor McKee signs the Elder Adult Financial Exploitation Prevention Act. Watch AARPRI State Director Catherine Taylor's remarks at the signing event.

July 2, 2021

In a true last minute development, S 497 Sub A/H 6477 Sub A (Gag Clause), passed the General Assembly and is now with Governor McKee awaiting his signature.

These bills were on the House Calendar last Thursday, the last day of the session. Once it was passed by the House it was immediately sent to the Senate and made it on to the 2nd calendar. Both chambers voted unanimously to pass this important piece of legislation. Senate Bill 497, sponsored by Senator Felag and House Bill 6477, sponsored by Representative Felix, would eliminate “gag clauses” in contracts between pharmacies and Pharmacy Benefit Managers that prohibit a pharmacist from informing a consumer if a drug would cost less if the consumer paid out-of-pocket, rather than through their insurance plan.

From 2016 to 2018, thirty states enacted laws to prohibit gag clauses. Building on this momentum, the President signed into law two federal laws that prohibit gag clauses in Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans as well as in most commercial insurance plans.


June 28, 2021

A little over a month ago AARP Rhode Island established what would be our 3 major legislative priorities for the rest of the session.

We are pleased to report that two of these priorities have been successful, while the third is looking promising.

The Elder Adult Financial Exploitation Prevention Act was signed into law last week by Governor McKee. You can read a letter we sent to the Governor urging him to sign this legislation HERE.

The Livable Home Modification Grant Program was successfully codified by its inclusion in Article 14 of the FY22 budget. You can read a letter that we sent to the Governor on this issue back in December HERE.

We are currently working hard to get movement on 5 bills that would lower the cost of prescription drugs for Rhode Islanders.

S 170 Sub B / H 5196 Sub A are up for one more final vote before hopefully being sent to the Governor for his signature. The vote on these bills will happen tonight (6/29) on the Senate Floor. These companion bills would provide that health plans that provide coverage for prescription insulin drugs used to treat diabetes shall only be allowed to charge up to forty dollars ($40.00) for a copayment for a thirty (30) day supply of insulin regardless of the amount or type of insulin needed to fill the covered person's prescription. Coverage for prescription insulin would not be subject to any deductible.

Senate Bill 497, sponsored by Senator Felag and House Bill 6477, sponsored by Representative Felix, would eliminate “gag clauses” in contracts between pharmacies and Pharmacy Benefit Managers that prohibit a pharmacist from informing a consumer if a drug would cost less if the consumer paid out-of-pocket, rather than through their insurance plan. Read AARP Rhode Island's testimony in support of S 497 from this week's House of Representatives Committee on Health and Human Services hearing.

Senate Bill 381 Sub A, sponsored by Senator McCaffrey, would provide that health plans that provide prescription drug coverage not include an annual or lifetime dollar limit on drug benefits. This bill has passed the Senate and is awaiting committee assignment in the House. Read AARP Rhode Island's testimony in support of S 381 Sub A from earlier this session.
Senate Bill 494 Sub A, sponsored by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio, would require that pharmaceutical companies disclose to the office of the health insurance commissioner acquisition costs of drugs approved by the Federal Drug Administration, if the acquisition cost is at least one hundred dollars ($100) for a thirty (30) day supply. This bill has passed the Senate and is now awaiting committee assignment in the House. Read AARP Rhode Island's testimony in support of S 494 Sub A from earlier this session.
Senate Bill 487 Sub A, sponsored by Senator John Burke, would require pharmacists to notify their customers whether their cost sharing benefits exceed the actual retail price of the prescription sought, in the absence of prescription drug coverage. It would also prevent medical insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers from penalizing a pharmacy for informing their prescription purchasers of alternative substitute drugs that are less expensive than those sought. This bill has been passed by the Senate and is now with the House Health & Human Services Committee. Read AARP Rhode Island's testimony in support of S 487 Sub A from earlier this session.

AARP Rhode Island advocates have been busy sending over 120 letters to Representatives in support of these bills. It is our hope that all of them will successfully pass the House of Representatives and head to the Governor before this session ends.

AARP Rhode Island has many more issues that remain priorities for us. Here are updates on a couple of them…

The LetRIVote campaign is one that AARP Rhode Island is proud to support. Advocating for voter access remains a priority for AARP and the Let RI Vote Campaign bills would do just that. House Bill 6003, sponsored by Whip Kazarian, and Senate Bill 516, sponsored by Senator Euer would increase access to early and mail voting, while securing, modernizing, and streamlining the mail and early voting process. You can read a summary of the bill HERE. You can also read an op-ed on the Let RI Vote Campaign that published by former AARP RI State Director, Kathleen Connell, HERE. Currently, these bills have been held for further study.

We have supported House Bill 5115 sponsored by Rep. Solomon and Senate Bill 162 sponsored by Sen. Felag to expand the RI Office of Healthy Aging at Home Cost Share Program to raise income eligibility from 200% FPL (Federal Poverty Line) to 250%FPL and add persons under age 65 with Alzheimer’s and related dementias. This bill came out of the Long-Term Care Coordinating Council’s Aging In Community Subcommittee. While the House bill has been held for further study, the Senate bill will receive a full floor vote today, 6/29. In addition, the approved FY22 Budget has included funding for these changes. This will be a great success for all advocates that fought so hard to get this passed.


June 8, 2021

Monday night’s  Providence City Council hearing on the Green & Complete Streets ordinance went very well. There were 75 written testimonies and 15 verbal testimonies submitted and all were in support. The Ordinance Committee chair said in 16 years he has never seen a hearing get so much support with zero opposition. After some language changes from the Forestry Dept. and National Green and Complete Streets Coalition the ordinance will be moved on for a Council vote. Will keep you posted on next steps.


June 7, 2021

What a busy month! As the General Assembly's sesson approaches I thought it would be good to give you all an update on what AARP Rhode Island has been up to. On May 19th we held a Legislative Update event with Senate President Ruggerio, Chairman McNamara, Long Term Care Coordinating Council Vice-Chair Maureen Maigret, and LETRIVOTE Campaign lead and Common Cause RI Executive Director, John Marion, Jr. Miss the event? You can watch the videos on the AARP RI Facebook page.

Lowering the Cost of Prescription Drugs for ALL Rhode Islanders

In continuation of our 2019-20 RX Campaign, AARP Rhode Island worked with both chambers to introduce over a dozen bills aimed at lowering the cost of prescription drugs.  So far, one of the bills we supported has been successfully signed into law, The MaryEllen Goodwin Colorectal Cancer Screening Act

Just this week the Senate passed two more bills that will lower the cost of prescription drugs in RI, while the House of Representatives has passed one.

S 497 passed the Senate this week. This bill would bar health insurance plans from prohibiting pharmacists discussing reimbursement criteria with individuals presenting prescriptions

S 170 Sub A passed the Senate this week and H 5196 Sub A passed the House of Representatives. These companion bills would provide that health plans that provide coverage for prescription insulin drugs used to treat diabetes shall only be allowed to charge up to forty dollars ($40.00) for a copayment for a thirty (30) day supply of insulin regardless of the amount or type of insulin needed to fill the covered person's prescription. Coverage for prescription insulin would not be subject to any deductible.

Passing the Elder Adult Exploitation Prevention Act

Senator Coyne's S 264 Sub A recently passed the Senate and has been referred to the House Committee on Corporations. The companion Bill, H 5642, sponsored by Representative Solomon, has been placed on the House Floor Session calendar for tomorrow (6/8). This bill would require employees of regulated financial institutions to report suspected financial exploitation of elder adults to the office of healthy aging and provide authority to the regulated financial institutions to place a temporary hold on transactions.

Providence Green and Complete Streets

We have been working with Providence Councilman, David Salvatore, on the Providence Green and Complete Streets Ordinance that will be heard tonight by the Ordinance Committee. Just today, AARP RI State Director, Catherine Taylor, and American Heart Association’s Meghan Tucker placed an Op-Ed in the Providence Journal. Want to provide written or verbal testimony on this important issue? Click here to sign up. The meeting is tonight, Monday the 7th of June.


May 7, 2021
On May 6th the Senate Judiciary Committee recommended passage of S 264 Sub AThe Elder Adult Financial Exploitation Prevention Act. AARP is in strong support of this legislation that was introduced by Sen. Cynthia Coyne.

AARP has a long history of fighting for protections against the financial exploitation of older Americans and has been on the forefront of advocacy in support of federal and state laws and regulations that prevent this type of abuse. Elder abuse is an often-hidden phenomenon that affects hundreds of thousands of seniors and financial exploitation is the most prevalent form of elder abuse. Every year, abuse and exploitation rob older Americans of $3 billion — and this is only the amount reported. We look forward to a vote on the House Floor in the near future!

Read the letter that AARP RI State Director, Kathleen Connell, sent to members of the committee prior to Thursday’s consideration hearing.

April 28, 2021
The month of April has been a busy one for AARP RI. While our focus remains on lowering the cost of prescription drugs, we have engaged on a variety of issues. Here is a brief breakdown…

Livable Home Modification Act (S 148/H 5796)

The Rhode Island Livable Home Modification Grant Program allows eligible homeowners and renters to retrofit their residence to nationally recognized accessibility standards and receive fifty percent (50%) of the total sum spent, up to five thousand dollars ($5,000), to retrofit such existing residence. AARP RI was instrumental in the launch of this program a few years ago.

This grant program is very popular and normally ends the year with a waiting list. The bills that have been introduced would codify (make permanent) this program. It is currently a budget line item and can be cut. Both the Senate and House bills have been held for further study. We have been meeting with legislators to get this bill out of committee and to a vote.

This is not our first rodeo, folks. AARP Rhode Island has been a leader in advocating for this important program.

Circuit Breaker Property Tax Program (S 480/H 5681)

This bill provides targeted property tax relief to households with the heaviest tax burdens relative to their incomes. Like the circuit breaker in an electrical panel, property tax circuit breakers are “tripped” when property taxes exceed a set threshold percentage of income. The circuit breaker offsets property taxes above that level. AARP Rhode Island testified in support of this bill.

While Rhode Island does currently have this type of program, the current income threshold and maximum credit are quite low and markedly less than what our neighbors Massachusetts and Connecticut offer to their older residents. It is time to get our program in line with our neighbors and for increases in cost of living to be accounted for. The Senate bill has been held for further study. The House bill has been referred to House Finance but hasn’t received a hearing yet. We worked on this bill with Maureen Maigret from the Long-Term Care Coordinating Council.

Voter Access (H 6003/S 0516 and H 5983/S 0569)

These bills are from the Let RI Vote campaign and would make several important changes that benefit 50+ voters in Rhode Island. Historically 50+ voters have preferred the option of voting by mail. Rhode Island’s mail ballot laws are among the most restrictive in the United States. AARP RI State Director Kathleen Connell has written an op-ed published April 28in the Providence Journal.

Expansion of TDI (S436 and H5789)

In 2020, 8,803 workers used TCI, an increase of 18% from 2019, to either take time from work to bond with a new child (59.5% of claimants) or provide care for a seriously ill family member (40.5% of claimants). The spike in 2020 claims was chiefly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as health turbulence placed thousands of Rhode Islanders in need of paid time off from work to care for loved ones. This bill has been held for further study by the Senate and is awaiting a hearing in the House. This bill would…

•  Increase the number of weeks a worker can use from 4 to 12 weeks in 2022.
•  Expand the category of who a worker can take time to care for to include: grandchildren, siblings, and care recipients. 
•  Increase the benefit rate from the current 60% of wages to 90% in 2022 for those earning minimum wage; to 75% in 2022 for those earning twice the minimum wage.
•  Expand TDI/TCI benefits to gig workers and self-employed individuals.
•  Increase the wage cap to $250,000.
•  Create a tax credit of $150 for those earning less than twenty-five times the minimum wage who paid into the TDI/TCI fund, but who did not receive TDI/TCI benefits.
•  Institute fines and penalties for not reinstating an employee to work if they use TCI.

Green and Complete Streets

Green and Complete streets are ordinances/policies that make roadwork projects consider all road users – as well as stormwater management, cleaner air, and other environmental concerns. We are currently working with Newport and Providence on their ordinances. The Providence ordinance will be up for public hearing soon. I’ll let you know when I find out what the date is. Here is an article on what Providence is doing. Here is one from Newport. Other towns such as South Kingstown and Portsmouth are also working on creating Green and Complete Streets. We hope that the work of Newport and Providence will spread throughout the state. Complete streets make communities more accessible for all people, especially older Rhode Islanders. Our advocacy on this Complete Streets is part of our Livable Communities initiative. Being able to navigate your community is a big part of being able to age in place.


April 14, 2021
Tomorrow (4/15) at 5pm the Senate Finance Committee will hear Bill S480, introduced by Senator Coyne. S480 will expand RI Property Tax Relief Program by increasing the maximum credit to $750 and increasing the income eligibility to $40,000. AARP Rhode Island worked with the Long Term Care Coordinating Council to create this bill. The deadline to provide verbal testimony is today at 4 pm. Written testimony is due tomorrow by 2 pm. Here is the link to the bill and for providing testimony.


April 1, 2021
We have renewed our efforts to pass state legislation that will lower the price of prescription drugs. Last week, State President Phil Zarlengo testified in support of 8 bills that have been introduced in the Senate. You can read his testimony and learn more about the eight bills under consideration here.

One of these bills sailed through committee and was passed on the Senate Floor. S 383A, amended by the Senate to be called the “The Maryellen Goodwin Colorectal Screening Act”, would require health insurers to cover colorectal cancer screenings. This bill is now being considered in the House of Representatives. AARP RI has signed on to a sponsorship letter with other organizations such as the American Cancer Society, Brown University Cancer Center, Hospital Association of RI, and many more. There is a companion bill in the House that has been introduced by supportive sponsor, Deputy Whip Mia Ackerman. These bills have been held for further study by the House Committee on Health and Human Services.

We look forward to working with state leadership to pass this package of 8 bills that would lower the cost of prescription drugs and save lives in Rhode Island.

The session is in full swing and many bills that could affect the lives of older Rhode Islanders are coming up in committee and during floor sessions. I have been working with our State Volunteer Action Team to monitor the progress of all these bills and provide testimony when necessary. I do not know how we would be able to accomplish all of this without our volunteers. Whether it is conversing with local representatives or providing testimony at a committee meeting, our volunteers are always working to protect the rights of older Rhode Islanders.

I am always looking for people that want to learn more about the legislative process and get involved with our advocacy volunteers within the State Volunteer Action Team. If you want to discuss specific legislation or learn more about how to get involved please reach out to me at (401) 248-2660 or mnetto@aarp.org.

Thank you for taking time out of your day to read up on what is happening in the world of AARP RI advocacy. Until next time, be well, stay safe and have fun!

About AARP Rhode Island
Contact information and more from your state office. Learn what we are doing to champion social change and help you live your best life.