My name is Barbara Colt. I am on the board of directors for The Womxn Project. The Womxn Project is a statewide organization focused on leveraging the power of art, activism, advocacy and education to advance the principles of reproductive justice, which demands that we all have the right to determine when and how we build our relationships, families and futures and that we have the ability to live and raise our children with dignity.
I am thrilled to support Budget Article 13, Section 5, which extends the clothing allowance for RI Works to infants and toddlers and includes a 6-month exclusion of income when a parent starts a job. RI Works is the state’s cash assistance program for children and their parents or caregivers and a work preparation program for the adults. The benefit has not been increased in 30 years, while all other New England states have adjusted their benefit to help families’ purchasing power keep up with inflation. This is not just absurd. It is unconscionable. We have proudly advocated for an increase. This is not currently included in the proposal, but we do want to urge you to consider increasing cash assistance.
We are pleased that the yearly clothing allowance is being taken care of. Our communities are still trying to survive a pandemic. Black, Indigenous and other people of color, low-income families and people with disabilities in our state have been especially hard hit. It is more important than ever that we do all we can to ensure we can all take care of ourselves and our families, that we can get an education and secure a job where we can make a living wage, that we close gaps in access to care and support and do all we can to ensure true economic recovery and the health and wellbeing of all Rhode Islanders.
There are people right now trying to decide whether to pay rent, buy groceries or get clothing that their children need. There are people who don’t know how they will make ends meet even with the assistance of the RI Works benefit. That means the program is NOT working. We can do better. We must do better! For now, we are happy to support the proposals in Article 13, Section 5 of the Governor’s budget. We urge you to support this budget article and to work to address the benefit needs by enacting an increase in the monthly benefit, as provided in Senator Murray’s bill. Please, ensure this is made a priority in the FY 2022 budget.
We can and we must do more to ensure the financial security and wellbeing of families in our state. We urge you to vote yes. Thank you.
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