By K.JOSEPH SHEKARCHI The Coronavirus has taken a gruesome human and economic toll on the country and our state. Along with the entire nation, the Rhode Island General Assembly awaits action from the Congress to provide aid to states and individuals
The Coronavirus has taken a gruesome human and economic toll on the country and our state. Along with the entire nation, the Rhode Island General Assembly awaits action from the Congress to provide aid to states and individuals hit hard by the effects of this ongoing pandemic.
Rhode Island remains subject to a state of emergency declared by Governor Raimondo in March pursuant to Article IX of the Rhode Island Constitution. This is necessary to ensure the health and safety of Rhode Islanders, and also to continue our eligibility for critical federal funding to help cope with the massive heath and economic crisis caused by the virus.
The General Assembly met in June and July to balance the budget for the previous fiscal year and to finalize numerous measures that had been pending before the COVID-19 crisis. The legislature is not currently physically meeting due to the need for social distancing and restrictions on large gatherings. However, our work continues in earnest by finding alternate ways to accomplish actions that are legislative in nature but require immediate attention.
During this ongoing state of emergency, the waiting period for unemployment benefits was eliminated, utility shutoffs were prohibited, a special health care enrollment period was made temporarily available and certain election procedures were adapted to promote safety. Through frequent zoom meetings and virtual hearings, legislators have met extensively with state and local leaders, department heads and policy makers as well as members of the community on the extensive reach of the COVID crisis; particularly with respect to schools, businesses, healthcare, safety compliance and jobs. As developments warrant, the General Assembly will return as soon as it is safe. Until that time, we are continuing to conduct hearings grappling with a difficult state budget, and have addressed cash flow challenges in the short term.
We are all standing together on shifting ground, and the legislature is working hard to help our constituents. Please contact me with your concerns, ideas and insight, or if I can assist you during these difficult times. Whenever possible, please support Warwick businesses and restaurants that are keeping our neighbors employed and our community intact. Most importantly, stay safe and healthy.
K. Joseph Shekarchi is the Representative District 23 from Warwick and House Majority Leader.