Rhode Island Faces a Serious Budget Crisis. Due to the economic impacts of the C-19 pandemic-- high unemployment, closed businesses, and reduced tax revenues, the FY 21state budget that began on July 1 projects a deficit of hundreds of millions of dollars.
The consensus on Smith Hill is that after the November 3 election the Governor will resubmit a revised budget containing layoffs of state workers, bureaucratic restructuring, and major cuts to social programs. Then the General Assembly will convene to craft and enact a final FY21 budget that will take effect immediately.
We Need to Protect Seniors Who Are at Greatest Risk. Seniors have been hit the hardest by C-19, especially those living in nursing homes. Protecting 4 essential programs that help seniors "age in the community" will enable many seniors to avoid the risks of nursing homes and other congregate living. Those programs are senior services grants, Meals on Wheels, respite care for seniors' caregivers, and no-fare bus passes.
These Programs Face the Real Possibility of 50% Cuts in the state budget that will be passed shortly after the November election:
Grants for Senior Services: $800K for programs at senior centers and municipal senior services. Senior centers are vital, especially during the pandemic, checking-in on and supporting isolated seniors, arranging meal deliveries, providing information on accessing health care.
Meals on Wheels: $530K for home-delivered meals daily to 1200 isolated seniors and persons living with disabilities. An absolutely vital service that reaches out to our most isolated persons and helps monitor their health and well-being.
Respite Care for Seniors' Caregivers: $325K helps pay for home care programs that give family/volunteer caregivers some time off. It is essential to preventing caregiver "burnout" and keeping people in their own homes. Family caregivers provide millions of dollars of free care annually.
No-Fare Bus Passes: $5M ensures mobility for 5,000+ low-income seniors and 13,000+ persons living with disabilities. This program has become even more vital during the pandemic in helping isolated people connect with the community and needed services.
Funding is also being discussed about cutting the RI Livable Home Modification Grant money.