Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport) is highlighting a wide legislative package that aims to support Rhode Island’s older citizens.

“Rhode Island’s demographics are changing and the number of older citizens and retirees is rising on a yearly basis and Aquidneck Island in particular is seeing many of our state’s older citizens make the decision to retire on the island.  In order to keep our retirees healthy and remaining in the state, we must have the proper policies and services to accommodate this rising population and these bills will make sure we are doing everything we can for this growing segment of Rhode Islanders,” said Representative Carson.

The first piece of legislation (2017-H 5227) sponsored by Representative Carson is a resolution requesting that the U.S. Congress not pass any legislation that would cut Medicare benefits or eliminate the guaranteed level of health care coverage that has been part of Medicare since the program’s inception.

“With the new administration in Washington D.C., there is a fear that Medicare’s services will be cut and our state’s older citizens who rely upon the program will be left to fend for themselves,” said Representative Carson.  “The Medicare program is over 50 years old. It has been one of this country’s greatest successes and to repeal portions of it would be life-threatening to the over 203,000 Medicare enrollees in Rhode Island.  This resolution is the first step to ensure that does not happen and our older residents will still have the vital care they need.”

The second piece of legislation (2017-H 5252) sponsored by Representative Carson would establish within the Department of Human Services, Division of Elderly Affairs, the Rhode Island Aging and Disability Resource Center as part of the Rhode Island system of long-term care for older adults, persons with disabilities, family caregivers and providers.

The purpose of the proposed center is to assist Rhode Islanders and their families in making informed choices and decisions about long-term service and support options and to streamline access to long-term supports for older adults, persons with disabilities, family caregivers and providers.  Services that the center would provide include a toll-free information number, a comprehensive database of information on available public and private long-term support and service programs, and personal options counseling to assist individuals in crafting long-term care plans for themselves and family members.

Finally, Representative Carson has reintroduced legislation (2017-H 5333) that exempts military pension income from personal income tax in Rhode Island.  “Newport is home to many talented retired navy personnel. We need to keep these talented professionals in our workforce and living in Rhode Island,” said Representative Carson.

Representative Carson is also a cosponsor on several other pieces of legislation that would help the state’s older and disabled population.  The first bill (2017-H 5241), sponsored by Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence), would remove the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority’s (RIPTA) scheduled bus fare adjustments relating to free bus passes for the elderly and disabled that was enacted in the 2016 state budget.  Currently, starting this month, RIPTA will charge elderly or disabled riders whose income is no higher than 200 percent of the poverty level pay 50 cents per ride, when previously they received free bus passes.  The normal fare for a bus trip is two dollars.

The second bill (2017-H 5251) Representative Carson cosponsored would establish a community senior services grant program to provide financial assistance to municipalities and nonprofit organizations which operate senior centers and/or senior programs.  The legislation was introduced by Rep. Deborah L. Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown).  The grant program would provide financial assistance and incentives to local governments and nonprofit agencies to operate senior centers and other senior services programs that help older residents to remain living in the community. Such services may include outreach, social services, health promotion, physical fitness, recreation, life-long learning, transportation assistance and caregiver support services for persons age 65 and older.

The last piece of legislation (2017-H 5294) cosponsored by Representative Carson is a resolution that would ask the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority to conduct a comprehensive Elder Mobility Study to examine the mobility needs of the state’s elderly population as part of the authority’s plan for the development of a revised coordinated human services transit plan.  Specifically, the plan would recognize the significant projected increase in persons age 65 and over, identify gaps in current state transit programs for seniors, identify the best practices for more responsive senior transit program, and available transportation options to include ride share programs, volunteer programs, and the estimated needed resources to help meet the projected demand.  The resolution was also sponsored by Representative Ruggiero.

“In a few short years, Newport will have a higher number of older citizens than school children. After working hard their entire lives, these people deserve to enjoy their retirement in dignity, security and respect.  These important bills will provide some of the key programs and services our older residents need in their senior years and I will continue to push for more legislation that will help our state’s aging population,” added Representative Carson.

Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What's Up Newp. He was born and raised in Rhode Island and graduated from Coventry High School. He serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and serves on the Board of Directors for Potter League for Animals. Ryan also is currently the Senior Editor - North America for Mountain News, publisher of OnTheSnow. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).