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Rhode Island Accessible Home Modification Tax Credit Bill S-2814

May 31, 2016

Dear Chairman DaPonte and members of the Senate Finance Committee,

On behalf of a coalition of associations and nonprofits we are writing to you in support of bill S-2814 that will provide tax credits to taxpayers who purchase new homes or retrofit existing homes to improve accessibility. We believe this legislation seeks to reflect the changing needs and preferences of our state’s population while providing much needed financial relief for those individuals and families who often are unable to access other programs that offer assistance for home modifications.  

The design and construction of much of the single-family housing in our state was built primarily to accommodate the needs of younger, healthy, working households.   Many existing single family homes are elevated above the ground or built over basements that require two-to-three step entrances that present access barriers for persons with disabilities and that limit the ability of those with mobility challenges to both enter and exit the home.

Any number of events—an accident, stroke, heart condition, serious illness or operation, disabling chronic condition, or the accumulated infirmities that accompany aging—can confine a person to an upper level floor (near a bedroom or bathroom) and limit his/her ability to maintain interactions with family and others outside the home that are essential for their physical and emotional well-being.  

With average life expectancy now exceeding 78 years, and expected to increase, far greater numbers of people will “age into disability.”  As the population ages, the impact and cost of fall-related deaths and injuries will increase dramatically unless this serious public health issue is addressed effectively.  According to the RI Department of Health, unintentional falls are the second leading cause of injury-related deaths in RI.  Falls are the leading cause of injury hospitalization in RI, and most fall-related hospitalizations in RI occur among people aged 65 and over.  The average cost of fall-related hospitalizations in RI is approximately $11,500 per person, per fall.  This cost, born in part by the state, includes visits to the ER, hospitalizations and rehab stays, and outpatient therapy. Bill S-2814 could lead to significant savings achieved through the reduction of falls as a direct result of home modifications. Additionally, this legislation provides the opportunity to spur job growth within the building trades as these home modifications would have to be completed by a licensed contractor.  The state could also see an increase in sales of construction materials and corresponding sales taxes.  

Also, a greater number of Americans are expressing a clear determination to remain in their current homes for as long as possible.  AARP surveys have consistently shown large majorities of adults, from age 45 to over 80 years, expressing a desire to live independently in their current communities and to age in place in their own homes.  Moreover, over 134,000 Rhode Islanders serve as unpaid family caregivers for their loved ones. Considering these trends, it can reasonably be expected that most, if not all, newly built housing will have at least one severely disabled or impaired resident over the coming decades.  

As more people choose to age in place, and as people with disabilities face challenges functioning independently in their homes, impediments to living safely in our communities must be removed. Older adults and others with disabilities need the resources and funding necessary to increase the accessibility of their homes or the opportunity to purchase a home that is fully accessible in order to increase the safety and accessibility of their homes and remain independent, active members of their community.  Bill S-2814 is a step in the right direction towards achieving this end. 

Our coalition is in strong support of S-2814, and we urge passage of the bill.

Sincerely,

Meredith L. Sheehan, Community Program Manager, National MS Society, Greater New England Chapter
John DiTomasso, Associate State Director, Advocacy, AARP- Rhode Island
Bob Cooper, Executive Secretary, Governor’s Commission on Disabilities 
Lorna Ritchie, Executive Director, Ocean State Center for Independent Living
John Marcantonio, Executive Officer, Rhode Island Builders Association
Philip Tedesco, CEO, Rhode Island Association of Realtors
William Flynn, Executive Director, Senior Agenda Coalition of Rhode Island
Patricia Ferland Weltin, C.E.O./Founder, Rare Disease United Foundation
Leslie Brody, PhD, President & CEO, Epilepsy Foundation New England
Debra L. Sharpe, Executive Director, Brain Injury Association of Rhode Island

Coalition members as of May 24, 2016
All members verified their support electronically

 

About the Greater New England Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society

The National MS Society mobilizes people and resources to drive research for a cure and to address the challenges of everyone affected by MS. The Society’s Greater New England Chapter serves 21,000 individuals and families affected by MS in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Early and ongoing treatment with an FDA-approved therapy can make a difference for people with multiple sclerosis. Learn about your options by talking to your health care professional and by contacting the National MS Society at www.MSnewengland.org, or 1 800 FIGHT MS (344 4867).

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide.

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