The House Finance Committee on Tuesday began four days of hearings on the more than $11 million in community service grants being distributed by the state this year.
Dozens of municipal officials and representatives of nonprofit agencies packed into Room 35 at the Statehouse to cite the value of the grants.
In Cranston, grant money pays for a social worker who ensures that seniors renew their Medicare Part D medical coverage. Cranston senior director David Quiroa said taking the grant money away would have a negative effect.
“Because now we would individuals who don’t have medical coverage and the hospital system would be flooded with uncompensated care," he said. "But most importantly, seniors would start to die as a result of not having those medical services available to them.”
The grants face heightened scrutiny due to the recent resignation of former House Finance chairman Ray Gallison. Community service grants for years helped to pay his salary as an administrator with an educational nonprofit. Gallison remains part of a federal investigation, although it's unclear if the grants play a part in the probe.
State Rep. Patricia Morgan (R-West Warwick) agreed that senior centers play an important role. But she said it's not possible to assess the value of community service grants by speaking just with people representing the programs, like senior centers, that receive them.
"Different towns are getting different amounts and I don’t know what the basis of that is," Morgan said. "Whoever administers this and actually signs off on these departmental grants is probably the person who can answer that. I’d like to have someone who is in charge of the entire program for us to talk to."
House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello's spokesman said Mattiello will offer his proposal for revising the community service grant program some time after four days of House Finance hearings conclude next Tuesday.