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RI News For You: National, local news for you to know, passings of note

by Nancy Thomas

Our second issue of “RI News for you” – an occasional quick summary of happenings when they happen – to keep you more informed in your busy day, and our busy news cycle.

ALEXA! “I want to talk to a doctor” – Amazon’s ALEXA and Teladoc Health are teaming up to provide a Telemedicine venture.  Startinga voice-activated virtual care program that lets people get medical help without picking up their phones. The service, for non-emergency health issues, will be available around the clock on Amazon’s Echo devices. Customers can tell voice assistant Alexa that they want to talk to a doctor, and that will prompt a call back on the device from a Teladoc physician. The program marks Amazon’s latest expansion into health care and another push by the retail giant into a form of care that grew rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Robert Kraft has announced his engagement to Dr. Dana Blumberg, a leading eye doctor.

Inflation is now at 7.9%

SCOTUS has refused to hear the case of Bill Cosby, which effectively ends appeals to keep him in jail.

Two months after receiving a pig heart transplant, the recipient, David Bennett, 57, has died. The family’s statement: “We are grateful for every innovative moment, every crazy dream, every sleepless night that went into this historic effort. We pray that those looking for hope will continue to fight for the future, fight for new ideas, fight for answers, fight for life. Fight like Dave. “(son) The death was unrelated, specifically, to the transplant, and the heart was functioning well.

NY will give priority for marijuana grower licenses to those in the past who were convicted of growing marijuana and have business experience in a controversial, novel, equity initiative.

Recall expanded for powder infant formulas – An additional lot of Similac powder infant formula is being added to the recall announced on February 17th. Abbott is recalling a lot of Similac PM 60/40 (Lot # 27032K80 [can] / Lot # 27032K800 [case] manufactured in Sturgis, Michigan). This is in addition to lots of Similac Alimentum and EleCare powder formula that were already recalled.

Five people in Massachusetts — including three judges — who worked at the Roderick L. Ireland Courthouse died of ALS.

COVID:

COVID is spiking in China and the country is enforcing selective lockdowns, impacting 9 million.

United Airlines will bring back unvaccinated workers.

Hawaii, the last state to have a mask mandate, removed it today. Some people should continue to wear their masks – high risk, going into a crowded venue, older Americans, to protect high risk people you may live with, or just when you want an added layer of protection. Vaccinations and boosters are key, protecting against serious hospitalizations.

An additional COVID package of tens of millions for US was withdrawn from a legislative package to pass the bill providing funding for Ukraine and other causes.

A transportation mask mandate has been extended by the federal government from next week to mid-April. Masks are required on methods of group transportation – buses, trains, subways, etc.

Rhode Island News

New license plate design – final designs will be revealed on Monday by RIDMV.

New Director for the RI Office of Healthy Aging has been named – former Representative Maria E. Cimini – as announced by Gov. McKee – Cimini has an extensive career in social work and public policy, most recently serving as Associate Director at the Rhode Island Department of Human Services (DHS). She joined DHS in 2017 helping provide policy guidance and expand access to benefits for low-income Rhode Islanders. She managed a statewide project under the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, facilitating a pathway to permanent housing for individuals experiencing homelessness. She worked at the URI Feinstein Center for a Hunger Free America for 11 years and served as the State Representative for District 7 in Providence from 2011-2014. Cimini’s Twitter account description: Passionate promoter of Progressive values, working personally and professionally to encourage social justice, ensure economic security and establish equity.

Money for Homeless programs requested by Gov. McKee amounts to $250M – Crossroads says it’s not enough and says it should start at $500M.

Breeze Airways, the new low-fare airline from JetBlue announced the addition of five new routes from T.F. Green Airport (PVD) this summer, including non-stop service to Los Angeles. This is the airport’s first West Coast flight. The new twice weekly service from Providence to Los Angeles (Wednesdays and Saturdays) will be operated with Breeze’s fleet of brand-new Airbus A220s. Breeze will nearly triple its fleet this year from 13 aircraft to 30. New Rhode routes include:

  • Columbus, OH (Friday and Monday, starting May 27, Nice from $49* one way; Nicer from $99* summer seasonal route).
  • Jacksonville, FL (Friday and Monday, starting May 27, from $59* one way; Nicer from $109*).
  • Savannah, GA (Friday and Monday, starting June 3, Nice from $59* one way; Nicer from $109* summer seasonal route).
  • Los Angeles, CA** (Wednesday and Saturday, starting June 29, Nice from $99* one way; Nicer from $189* Nicest from $199* summer seasonal route); and
  • Richmond, VA (Thursday and Sunday, starting June 30, Nice from $49* one way; Nicer from $89*).

Routes which will be operated with the Airbus A220 are marked with **

Cranston is doing an ARPA survey to see how they think the funds should be distributed – it is available here: www.cranstonri.gov/arpa-survey.

Affordable Home funding – Over $60 million in funding to support the creation and preservation of affordable homes”. Proposals are due before 4:00 p.m. on Friday, April 22, 2022. Program descriptions or Term Sheets for each funding source are included on RIHousing’s website (https://www.rihousing.com/rfps-rfqs/). Funding sources included under the Consolidated RFP: 

  • Housing Production Fund (HPF): funded via state real estate transfer tax receipts. Approximately $10 million in funding for production of affordable housing. While preservation of existing housing is an eligible use, new production is a priority. Developments must benefit low- and moderate-income individuals and families with gross annual incomes at or below 80% of Area Median Income (AMI); there is a priority for households either exiting homelessness or earning no more than 30% of AMI. Mixed income developments are allowed under the HPF program. Funding is available for rental and homeownership opportunities. 
  • HPF-ELI Operating Support: $10 million available for operating support for households earning less than 30% of AMI. The subsidy will cover the difference between actual rent and the amount necessary to operate the unit. 
  • RI Rebounds Production Fund (RIRPF): funded via the State Fiscal Recovery Fund (SFRF), approximately $15 million available for new production of affordable housing for households with incomes at or below 80% of AMI. Funding is available for rental and homeownership opportunities. 
  • Capital Magnet Fund (CMF): Approximately $3.5 million available to provide owners of existing affordable housing developments with incentives to maintain these developments as quality affordable housing. CMF is also available as a source for newly created affordable housing opportunities, however preservation is a priority. Priority is also given to projects in Areas of Economic Distress and developments serving households below 50% of AMI. Funding is available for rental housing only. 
  • Preservation Loan Fund (PLF): Approximately $3 million in funds is available for the preservation of existing restricted affordable housing that has completed its initial LIHTC compliance period. Funding is available for rental housing only. 
  • Tax Exempt Bonds and 4% LIHTC: RIHousing has traditionally accepted applications for bond financing on a rolling basis and will continue to do so. Completion of the consolidated application will be considered an application for tax exempt bonds. Funding is available for rental housing only. 
  • Building Homes Rhode Island (BHRI): Approximately $19 million available under this funding round. BHRI is funded through a state bond referendum for the development of rental housing opportunities for households up to 80% of AMI and homeownership opportunities for households up to 120% of AMI. While preservation of existing housing is an eligible use, new production is a priority. 
  • Project Based rental assistance under the Section 811 PRA Demonstration Program: Up to 25% of units in a development can be Section 811 units. If awarded rental assistance, the owner will enter into a Rental Assistance Contract for 20 years and execute a 30-year Use Agreement for the 811 units in the development. Assisted units must serve eligible tenants with disabilities.

URI fires basketball coach David Cox – two possible high profile replacements being bantered about are: Rick Pitino and Omar Lodom.

Electric vehicle rebate program will be announced in RI on Monday – (in MA rebates are usually between $1500 and $2500 depending on the purchase price of the vehicle).

AARP Rhode Island held a press conference on lowering prescription drugs. State Director Catherine Taylor, Volunteer State President Marcus Mitchell and Volunteer Lead Federal Liaison Dr. Phil Zarlengo joined Rhode Island US Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse for a virtual news conference highlighting the need for Congress to lower prescription drug prices. Lowering prescription drug prices has widespread support among voters, regardless of their party affiliation, with 70% of voters saying it is very important. The survey also found that 87% of voters support allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices. More information about AARP’s Fair Drug Prices campaign can be found at aarp.org/rx. And look for our article on Monday by Herb Weiss with lots of details.

The Crow’s Nest Restaurant in Warwick has new owners, owners of Pane e Vino – and will stay a small seafood themed restaurant.

Supt. of North Kingstown schools resigned, effectively immediately. District was involved in the athletic coach’s controversial “fat-testing” program.

RI will receive $695 million in infrastructure funds over the next 5 years to invest in clean and drinking water infrastructure projects. A press conference was held at Woonsocket’s new state-of-the-art drinking water treatment plant where leaders will encourage other municipalities and quasi-public entities to submit their projects for funding.

The Dunk in Providence may get a new name if sponsorship changes – the contract with Dunkin’ Donuts is up in April.

COVID in RI:

There are less than 100 people hospitalized in the state.

3,700 Massachusetts COVID deaths will be reclassified, meaning the total number of deaths could drop to somewhere in the 20,000 range. RI officials say that our counting system is not the same as how Massachusetts counted.

$19 million to support two Rhode Island Rebounds Child Care Initiatives has been announced. Administered by the RI Department of Human Services (DHS), the Early Education Pandemic Retention Bonus Program will provide up to $3,000 in retention bonuses to childcare educators and the Family Child Care Startup Grants will help spur the opening of additional family childcare facilities.

Notable Passings:

Dr. Robert Indeglia, noted RI cardiologist, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and judge at the Westminster Dog Show, at 84.

Keven McKenna, a judge, representative, and attorney for 40 years, who also ran for Mayor of Providence, an advocate for those in need and a fierce defender of rights. He was 77.

Charles Mansolillo, an attorney, most well-known as chief of staff to Mayor Buddy Cianci, at 72.

Leon Kayarian, a business owner, entrepreneur and philanthropist – Leon’s Tires with ticker-tape type sign that greeted thousands of drivers going on Route 95 North for many years with time, temperature and message he gave to many causes and nonprofits.

Edna Panaggio, 94, of Cranston. Many would recognize Edna as a senior model for various high fashion and retail groups, Donahue Models, and as an acting coach. She had a passion for acting and theater. She was a member of SAG/AFTRA and worked in the New England area as a talent agent for Boston and New York groups. She was an author, of a book based on her grandmother, ‘Fiddling Through the Wilderness’.

Matthew Dennison, 17, one of the two West Warwick high school hockey players who were seriously injured in a crash in Exeter has died.

Emilio Delgado, Luis on ‘Sesame Street’ for four decades, Dies at 81.