News Archives for February of 2021

CAPP Takes a Lead in the Fight for $15

Published 02/23/2021

As of October 2019, all full-time employees of CAPP earn at least $15 an hour. This practice positions us at the forefront of the push for fair pay for the Rhode Island working class. The Biden administration has said increasing wages will be a priority and the President has already taken steps towards paying federal employees and contract workers a fair wage. Karla Walter, the senior director of Employment Policy at the Center for American Progress, said of the President’s January 22nd order: 

"This order will also help close pay disparities for women, and Black and Latino workers (and) is a critical first step in delivering on (the President's) campaign commitments to raise wages for workers."[1]

CAPP is proud to be both a leader in the Fight for $15 and in line with the President’s plan to ensure workers receive the pay they deserve to support their families. Increasing the minimum wage will reduce the number of citizens who will rely on public assistance programs. In the event that the state or federal minimum wage is raised to $15 an hour, CAPP will be ready to assist residents with managing their finances to avoid missteps. Our Education and Job Development Department has been operating a Financial Literacy program for several years. Even through COVID-19, we ran 15-person virtual cohorts guiding residents through the do’s and don’ts of money management.
The training touches on budgeting, paying down credit card debt, saving for emergencies and basic investments and mutual funds for long-term financial planning. Many of the residents participating in the program are working towards home ownership. Debra, a resident who participated in the first cohort of CAPP’s Financial Literacy program, learned about our classes from College Unbound. She wasn’t sure at first that it would be beneficial to her but she said she gained a better understanding of the language of finances.
“I needed to understand it so I could make better choices.”[2]
The question of raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $15 per hour has been in the headlines for a long time. To date, the current federal minimum wage has not changed since 2009. 29 states have raised their minimum wage, varying from $8.75 (Montana and Nevada) to $13 (California[3]).[4]
20 states[5] either do not have a minimum wage and defer to the federal standard or subscribe to the same amount for their minimum wage. Seven states[6] have approved incremental increases, which will raise their minimum wage to $15 and will get there by 2025 at the latest. Only Washington DC offers workers $15 per hour.[7] Here in Rhode Island, former Governor Gina Raimondo ordered the minimum wage for workers increased to $11.50 from $10.50 as of October 1, 2020.
People of color, particularly women, are disproportionately underpaid in the American workforce. Raising the minimum wage will not only close racial and gender pay gaps but will additionally stimulate the economy and reduce poverty overall. In Rhode Island, while the current statewide minimum wage of $11.50 is higher than the federal minimum wage, it still falls shy of the established living wage, which is $14.92.[8][9]
43% of Rhode Islanders are currently working minimum wage jobs and would be affected by the increase, upping their annual income by an average of $2,900 per year. The age bracket most affected by an increase would be 25 to 54-year olds, comprising a major cross section of Rhode Island's workforce. Similarly, approximately 3,000 youth, aged 16 to 24, would see an influx of funds if the minimum wage was raised to $15 per hour. Overall, an estimated 112,000 Rhode Islanders would benefit from the increase.[10]
As of this writing, gradually raising the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2026 is part of the President’s pandemic relief bill. The plan, if passed, would increase the minimum wage to $9.50 within the year.[11] There are voices against this endeavor as there have always been. One of the main arguments against raising the federal minimum wage purports that an estimate of 1.4 million jobs would be lost. According to the New York Times, “wages aren’t merely determined by market forces; rather, they reflect a tug of war between labor and capital…if the minimum wage had kept pace with productivity since 1968, it would now be $24 an hour.”[12] It remains to be seen if this particular aspect of President Biden’s plan will be approved but one thing is clear:
America’s minimum wage workers are long overdue for a raise. 
[2] Interview, January 8, 2021
[3] Minimum of $13 per hour for employers with fewer than 26 employees. The minimum wage is $14 per hour for employers with more than 26 employees.
[5] Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
[6] California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.
[8] Based on a family of three with both parents working.
Map Credit:

CAPP to Establish an Emergency Needs Fund

Published 02/24/2021

CAPP’s tagline is Leading with Dignity, Serving with Purpose. It says a lot about who we are and what we do. When tragedies happen and families are in need, we make every effort to live up to our ideal.

When the December 22nd fire broke out in the multi-family home on Lucy Street in the Mount Pleasant section of Providence, three families lost everything they owned. One family lost two small children in the blaze. 2020 was already a year where many of Providence’s residents were left unemployed, facing eviction and sick; the fire seemed like a final cruelty of circumstances. The normal channels people turn to for assistance after such an emergency proved insufficient and these residents were left with nothing.

After being alerted to the families’ dire needs through our partnership with the Providence Public School Department, CAPP contacted several of our community partners to rally around these families to offer support in their time of unimaginable loss. Through the quick action of CAPP and its partnerships with local agencies, the families received gift cards for basic needs, food from our food pantry, clothing, PPE as well as mental health referrals. Our sister agency in Cranston provided these families access to their furniture bank so the persons displaced by the fire could modestly furnish their new apartments.

One of these residents, identified as Elizabeth, said “We were not expecting to get so much help.” She and her family have expressed deep gratitude for the kindness they were shown. The family thanked CAPP for our generosity and expressed additional thanks for the connections to other resources not available in-house. Prior to the tragic fire, Elizabeth said she had not heard of CAPP and didn’t know about the services we provide to Providence County's residents. Throughout her life Elizabeth said she had always helped others and never thought she'd need assistance such as what she received from CAPP. She was able to accept our help in the spirit of wanting to pay it forward and plans to give back by volunteering at CAPP in the future.

Elizabeth is close to securing US residency, the process has been delayed due to systemic changes and the ongoing pandemic. She has been in the US for 14 years, and has never received public or private assistance before. She explained that the undocumented population stays to themselves, only trusting organizations to which they have a connection and only utilizing those trusted resources. “Many go without instead of going to get anything," Elizabeth said. The aid she and her family received from CAPP and others left her very grateful “When you lose everything, and don't have anything, even $20 can make a difference.”

Another resident named Freddy was also displaced by the fire. Freddy is heartbroken over the loss of his home and especially over the loss of the children, to whom he was a self-described father figure. Like Elizabeth, he never thought he would need assistance and hadn't heard about CAPP until the fire happened. The most valuable help he received was the moral support. Freddy describes himself as a fighter but everything that happened left him feeling broken. The support he found at CAPP lifted him up. “It was more emotional support than anything. For someone to listen," he said. During impossibly hard times, it was important to him that strangers had been there for him when his extended family was unable to help.

Earlier in 2020, he was working a steady job in another state but his hours were reduced due to the pandemic and it led to him coming to Rhode Island. He was working when the fire happened, coming home to find nothing but the destruction left in its wake. Of the things he lost, he was deeply hurt by the loss of a disk containing irreplaceable photos of his family when his children were small back in his country of origin. He says he is traumatized by the fire and is struggling but getting by thanks to the kindness and compassion he received from CAPP.

A second, unrelated house fire on Smith Street gave us the opportunity to serve another resident who had difficulty accessing resources. Kathy is a part-time life skills specialist at another non-profit agency in Providence. She had received heating assistance through CAPP in the past and had referred friends and neighbors to the agency when they hit hard times. Her apartment was heavily damaged in a fire and most of her belongings that weren’t consumed by the fire were damaged by smoke, soot and water. She was disheartened by the serious lack of services and resources available to her at the most truly trying time of her life. Shelters weren’t able to offer help because of COVID-19 restrictions. She found several programs that were unfunded because monies were redirected towards COVID relief. She found herself staying in a hotel while her name was on multiple waiting lists for housing, but, there was no telling how long it would be before she could be accommodated. “I saw homeless people and felt like I was about to be one,” she said.

Her calls for help were unheard and unanswered.

One call to CAPP was the turning point for this resident. Through the LIHEAP department, she was connected to our Community Outreach Coordinator. This is what Kathy would describe as a turning point in her recovery from the fire. She felt immediately connected and was promptly referred to some of our community partners who were able to offer her the help she desperately needed. After a visit to the CAPP food pantry at our satellite office on Broad Street, she felt like she was “seen as a person.”

With housing as her most prominent concern, Kathy said a CAPP staff member made a call to a housing service with the intention of continuing to get her established in an apartment. Once an available dwelling was available, she received assistance with a security deposit from our Rental and Mortgage Assistance Program. “(Being in this situation) feels like you’re by yourself. Knowing that people care about you makes a difference,” Kathy said.

There are no words to be spoken or act of support that could ever replace the lives lost or to ease the pain suffered by the families of this horrific event at what should have been a time to celebrate the winter holidays. CAPP and our partners in the community were proud to stand by the survivors and hope the assistance and empathy we provided made a difference for these families’ lives. Our staff would like to thank our partners, We Heart Lives, CCAP, and Project Undercover for providing essential services as well as the generous private donors who helped us provide for these residents.

Community Action Partnership of Providence is tireless in the pursuit of making the lives of our residents better. There isn’t a specific program within our agency dedicated to relief for fire survivors but we were proud to have been able to mobilize and provide wraparound services to these residents while they rebuild. Our Executive Director Rilwan Feyisitan, Jr. would like to establish an emergency fund at CAPP to support families and individuals in similar situations. He and members of the board are contributing personally to seed this fund. They invite you to join us in building this fund.

 You can donate to CAPP by clicking HERE.

CAPP Helps Over 200 Undocumented Families

Published 02/23/2021
When the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law in March of 2020, it was impossible at that time to foresee the devastating, long-term effects the COVID-19 pandemic would have. Some Rhode Islanders lost their jobs or saw a drastic reduction in hours; schools and daycare centers closed sending parents scrambling to find alternate childcare or arranging to work from home. Many residents who fit into the income range specified in the bill received the first round of stimulus money from the federal government to help them meet any economic shortfalls the loss of work or reduction of income had caused.
There was no provision in the CARES Act to provide stimulus funds to undocumented Americans, who are already marginalized by their citizenship status and are disproportionally at-risk of contracting the virus due to the types of front-line or under-the-table jobs which are available to them. An estimated 14,000 to 17,000 undocumented Rhode Islanders do not qualify for any stimulus funds. In order to provide a much-needed lifeline to this vulnerable population, the Governor’s office announced the launch of the WeR1 Relief Fund in order to address the gap in aid by giving direct cash assistance. The fund was donor driven and provided gift cards in the amount of $400 to one adult member of each qualified households. The fund guidelines specifically provide this funding would go to those unable to participate in government-funded programs such as WIC, SNAP, or TANF because of their immigration status.
Due to our reputation in Providence County for giving aid to those most in need, CAPP is a recognized leader in supporting undocumented Providence County residents. Undocumented families are known to be self-isolated and difficult to reach due to a fear of exposure, legal repercussions and possible detention and deportation. CAPP is known for being a trustworthy organization which puts the needs of residents above all else; undocumented individuals know that if they come to us, they will receive any help we can provide. Through our efforts, 249 families were able to benefit from the WeR1 fund through the funds raised by private donors. Recognizing the extreme need, CAPP provided an additional $20,000 in aide towards the effort. CAPP was able to provide an additional $100 of critically needed support to the first 200 of those families we served.
Again, in December of 2020, many Americans received a second stimulus check under the federal CARES Act. But once again, undocumented Rhode Islanders were left out due to their status. CAPP was able to secure additional funding to serve 95 undocumented or blended status families. We were able to provide $200 in basic need gift cards to each of those families, bringing CAPP’s commitment to serving Providence’s undocumented and blended status community to just under $40,000 as of December 2020. CAPP joined with other nonprofits across the state to serve 5764 undocumented or blended families in benefitting from the WeR1 Rhode Island relief fund. These critical support are still needed. CAPP is proud to join the list of those supporting all Rhode Islands in their times of need.
More information to come about how CAPP is helping undocumented families stay warm this winter.