PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo has rolled out a plan to close a deficit and boost funding at the cash-strapped R.I. Veterans Home, but she’s also proposing wartime veterans pay more to live there.
The new details emerged on Thursday as part of Raimondo’s $10 billion tax-and-spending proposal for the 2020-21 fiscal year.
Under the new proposal, the state would close a nearly $2 million deficit for the current fiscal year and increase funding at the home in the next fiscal year.
But the long-term care facility’s nearly 200 residents would also be required to pay 100% of their monthly income to live there, compared to 80% under current rules.
The state justifies the increased cost in part by saying residents will receive a larger monthly stipend of $300 compared to $150 under the plan, which also eliminates all co-pays for occupational and physical therapy.
“Taken together, the proposal will increase revenue by $881,801 and result in a general revenue savings of an equal amount,” state budget officials wrote in the proposal. “The increase will standardize Veterans Home procedures to more closely align with the policies implemented at similar residential veterans’ institutions in Massachusetts.”
As Target 12 has reported in recent months, the state has eliminated various benefits offered at the facility in order to deal with a funding shortfall. In addition to getting rid of fully covered occupational and physical therapy, Veterans Home officials also stopped offering meals to visiting family members and employees.
Raimondo last month called on the R.I. National Guard to help come up with a plan to better operate the home. Her budget calls for $575,000 in savings through what state officials call more efficient staffing. It also includes a $450,000 cut to contract costs, such as janitorial services.
“The personnel costs right now – they’re about two-thirds of the deficit, so that’s an area we’ll really focus on,” Adjutant General Christopher Callahan said last month.
In a shift in how money is collected and spent at the home, the governor is also proposing that residents’ incomes go directly into a restricted fund earmarked specifically for the Veterans Home.
Under current state law, 80% of their income goes to the General Fund while only 20% goes into the restricted fund.
Raimondo’s budget, which requires legislative approval and would begin on July 1, would keep in place a controversial plan first reported by Target 12 that to collect outstanding estates exceeding $15,000 from veterans who have died without a will.
As a result, the state projects it will collect $280,000 next fiscal year.