opinion Newport Rhode Island

In October of last year, we wrote about the complete lack of urgency in filling much-needed budgeted positions within the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF).  Our state’s most vulnerable children and families were suffering greatly due to the slowness in hiring these crucial frontline workers who were desperately needed, especially during the pandemic.

While we wish we were writing today about how this serious problem was resolved, instead, we must bring to your attention the same concerns. Except this time, the problem is far larger because even more of our most at-risk residents are going without the support and services they need to survive.
Even though the General Assembly budgeted for and approved the hiring of many more frontline Department of Human Services (DHS) workers in June 2021, these positions remain unfilled.  This adds further stress to an already significantly strained social safety net. 

Due to the understaffing and the pandemic, massive backlogs for vital assistance are keeping our residents from accessing the critical resources that DHS provides.  Food assistance, child care, medical care and income supports are but a few of the necessary programs that are being affected by this lack of urgency to fill these support positions.

We have been told that the holdup in hiring is due to the McKee Administration’s hiring process, which only allows the Department of Administration to provide the agencies under its umbrella with a list of acceptable job applicants.  Individual department directors are unable to recruit and hire directly, ensuring that the process remains a slow and complicated affair, which in turn, hurts our residents who rely upon and need the services of DHS and other departments.

We are calling on the McKee Administration to review its hiring practices and to remove the bureaucratic layers that are keeping these much-needed support positions unfilled. The pandemic continues to rage on and the brutally cold winter months exacerbate the ever-present problems and concerns that plague our residents in need. 

We can no longer afford to waste more time. These positions need to be filled now.

Rep. Julie A. Casimiro, a Democrat, represents District 31 in North Kingstown and Exeter.  Rep. Thomas E. Noret, a Democrat, represents District 25 in Coventry and West Warwick.