At press time, as the Rhode Island General Assembly finishes up its legislative work, the recently released state budget for Fiscal Year 2019, which begins on July 1, contains double the amount of funds for the Rhode Island Livable Home Modification Grant Program. The current budget funds the program at $250,000, and the budget approved by the House Finance Committee on June 8 raises it to $500,000. This funding is expected to be included in the final state budget.
With the strong backing of AARP Rhode Island, Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) and Sen. Walter S. Felag Jr. (D-Dist. 10, Bristol, Tiverton, Warren) introduced the Rhode Island Livable Home Modification Grant Act, (H 7880, S 2554) to allow eligible homeowners and renters to retrofit their residence to nationally recognized accessibility standards and receive 50 percent of the total sum spent, up to $5,000, to retrofit their existing residence. At press time, the legislation has passed the Senate and is on hold in the House.
Ageing in Place
During this legislation session, McNamara and Felag are pushing to codify into law their pilot program enacted last year’s legislation to provide grants to assist older and disabled Rhode Islanders to get in and out of their homes and to navigate safety within that home with or without assistance. By allowing older and disabled Rhode Islanders to age in place in community, admission to assisted living, nursing homes and hospitals could be avoided.
“As Rhode Island’s population ages, it’s important for us to do what we can to ease the burden of those who have shouldered the burden all their lives,” said Rep. McNamara. “When people with disabilities stay active and independent, they don’t utilize health care services to the degree that they would in assisted living facilities or nursing homes. Modifying homes reduces falls and related hospital and rehabilitation expenses,” he says.
Adds, Senator Felag, “The elderly and disabled population in our state have specific needs within their homes that can unfortunately be extremely expensive for themselves and their caregivers. This program will help alleviate the costs to keep our aging and disabled populations in their homes and communities while also saving the state’s taxpayers millions of dollars in nursing home Medicaid costs.”
“This grant program allows many people to remain in their home,” said AARP Rhode Island State Director Kathleen Connell.
Connell notes, “Sometimes, installing wheelchair ramps, widening a doorway or converting a bathtub to a walk-in shower can make all the difference for the caregiver and the person they assist. Unfortunately, many families are already financially stressed by out-of-pocket caregiving expenses.”
“It also is important to emphasize that all taxpayers benefit when people with chronic illness or aging disabilities can stay in their homes, rather than move into state Medicaid-supported nursing homes,” Connell added. “We all win when we support caregivers.
Applications for the Livable Home Modification Grant must be submitted and received by the RI Governor’s Commission on Disabilities prior to the start of modification activities to an existing home/apartment. Projects must be completed prior to the end of the State’s fiscal year, June 30, 2019, and post-modification documentation must be submitted no later than July 10th of the same calendar year.