Legislative Priorities, 2020

Making a Difference in 2020.

United Way of Rhode Island’s public policy work aligns with our strategic goal of making a difference in the lives of Rhode Islanders. Our focus in 2020 is to make that difference by advocating for change in three fundamental areas: Housing, Education, and Justice.

1. Housing

Over the past decade, housing costs have outpaced earnings, a trend that’s left 40% of Rhode Islanders in homes they can’t afford. In states with healthy economies, at least 7% of affordable housing is vacant at any given time — in Rhode Island, our vacancy rate is 2.5%. In other words, Rhode Island is in the midst of a housing crisis.

United Way calls on the Rhode Island legislature to pass a budget that includes a continuous funding stream for the:

  • Construction and preservation of affordable housing.
  • Creation of rental subsidies for households with a low income.
  • Implementation of supportive services for those in permanent housing.

Consistent funding will support workforce development, build stronger communities, and address long-term homelessness. Along with funding, we ask that our elected officials advocate for the removal of legal, regulatory, and economic barriers that prevent many Rhode Islanders from accessing quality housing.

In addition, we ask all Rhode Islanders to support the Homes RI Coalition. This member-driven initiative has proven itself a leader in developing affordable housing policy. See a list of supporting agencies at the bottom of the page.

2. Education

United Way supports nonprofit agencies and initiatives that improve education in our state — including the great work of our colleagues at the Rhode Island Afterschool Network.

We believe it’s unacceptable that:

  • Only 40% of our children can read at grade-level by the end of third grade.
  • 37,471 of our young people are waiting for high-quality out-of-school-time learning programs.
  • 75,000 adults over the age of 25 do not have a high school diploma.

United Way calls on the Rhode Island legislature to make education work for all Rhode Islanders by promoting legislation that:


The Rhode Island Quality Enhancement in Afterschool and Out of School Time Enhancement, also known as H7678, has been submitted. Support for this legislation is a priority in establishing a consistent funding stream for out of school time learning programs.

3. Justice

In 2018, the state spent $225 million on the incarceration, probation, parole, and home confinement of 25,000 Rhode Islanders. Oftentimes, families of those who commit a crime use their income to support their incarcerated loved ones, leaving little to enroll their children in out-of-school-time learning programs.

Of those processed through prison intake units in Rhode Island, 29% are there for probation or parole violations, 53% have a high school diploma or less, and 52% are unemployed. Adding to this complex issue, 52% of Rhode Island males will return to prison after violating parole or probation within 36 months of release.

 United Way calls on the Rhode Island legislature to support policies that:

  • Invest in targeted programs, addiction recovery, and statutory changes to help eliminate the residual effects for those who’ve completed their sentences, as well as families of those currently incarcerated.
  • Enhance existing policies that help those who’ve completed their sentence find opportunities in their community to begin the process of regaining their prior standing.

Homes RI Coalition

Church Community Housing Corp., Crossroads R.I., Direct Action for Rights and Equality, Tenant and Homeowner Association, Dorcas International Institute of R.I., Foster Forward, The Helen Hudson Foundation, House of Hope CDC, Housing Network of R.I., HousingWorks R.I., Grow Smart R.I., Neighborhood Health Plan of R.I., Neighbors Helping Neighbors R.I., NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley, Omni Development Corp., ONE Neighborhood Builders, PCF Development, POAH, Public Housing Association of R.I., R.I. KIDS COUNT, R.I. Center for Justice, R.I. Coalition for the Homeless, R.I. Coalition Against Domestic Violence, R.I. Community Action Assoc., R.I. Homeless Advocacy Project, R.I. Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty, R.I. State Council of Churches, Smith Hill CDC, South County Habitat for Humanity, SWAP, Inc., United Way of R.I., Washington County CDC, West Elmwood Housing Development Corp., Women’s Development Corp.