Lawmakers cut funding to Nonviolence Institute

Politics

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — When House lawmakers debate the nearly $10 billion state budget on Friday, one line item will be gone: a $200,000 allotment for the Nonviolence Institute in Providence.

The organization, formerly known as the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence, is a nonprofit that works to reduce violence, especially by guns.

Gov. Gina Raimondo had proposed to continue the $200,000 grant to the organization in her fiscal 2019-20 budget, but House leaders removed it from their rewrite of the plan, which was released late Friday night and quickly passed by the House Finance Committee.

The state has provided funding to the organization since at least 2007, according to a spokesperson for the state budget office. The initial grant that year was $50,000, and the amount has gone up and down annually since then. The largest grant it received was $215,188 in fiscal 2015-16.

The state funding represents about 12% of the group’s total revenue in 2017, which totaled $1.6 million, according to its most recent available nonprofit filing.

Asked why the money was cut, House spokesman Larry Berman said: “In a difficult budget year, the House Finance Committee reevaluates its limited resources, including past allocations to non-state agencies.”

PJ Fox, the executive director of the Nonviolence Institute, said he is working with representatives to restore the funding.

Rep. Joseph Almeida, D-Providence, confirmed he is planning to introduce an amendment to restore the money. He said he plans to propose to take $200,000 from a controversial grant to a Cranston chiropractor.

Fox said the $200,000 has helped the group towards its mission, which in the last year included 692 people trained in nonviolence conflict resolution, 83 violent incidents responded to by streetworkers, and 601 hours of job training for at-risk youth.

“Transparency is critical to the Institute’s work,” Fox said. “It is important that all of our funding sources – private donors, foundations, federal and state governments – have an opportunity to understand our work and how their dollars support our mission.”

The institute rents space to the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence, which has worked to defeat Mattiello in past elections. Mattiello is a gun-rights supporter.

Fox said he would not speculate as to why funding was removed.

Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell, a Democrat from Providence, tweeted her opposition to the decision.

“This is the agency that works tirelessly to end gun violence in the core urban areas,” Ranglin-Vassell said. “What is the logic behind canceling the grant? I respectfully request that this funding be reinstated. We must be intentional about ending gun violence. Sad.”

Steph Machado (smachado@wpri.com) covers Providence, politics and more for WPRI 12. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook

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