Dec. 1, 2022
Teamsters Local 251 authorize strike at RISD
Teamsters Local 251 members working as custodians, groundskeepers, and movers at the Rhode Island School of Design have voted to authorize a strike by a 95 percent margin, the workers announced on Nov. 30.
“These brave men and women are joining tens of thousands of other university workers all across the country who are standing up and demanding that their employers stop acting like Fortune 500 companies and start acting like institutions of higher learning,” Matt Taibi, Local 251 Secretary-Treasurer and Eastern Region International Vice President, said in a press release. “These workers have been underappreciated and undercompensated for far too long.”
The workers took the strike authorization vote after the university refused to meet a reasonable standard for wages, health care benefits, and a retirement package. As of 2020, RISD has roughly 2,500 students enrolled, an endowment of $440 million, and an operating budget of $161 million. -- WIRE REPORTS
Nov. 4, 2022
R.I. home sale prices rose 6.5 percent, despite slowing sales in Q3
PROVIDENCE — The median home sale price in Rhode Island sold in the third quarter was $410,000, which is a 6.5 percent increase from last year, according to data released by the Rhode Island Association of Realtors on Friday.
However, sales in the state slowed during the third quarter by 15.2 percent compared to the third quarter of 2021.
“Inflation and rising rates have been a game changer for the housing market,” said Agueda Del Borgo, the association’s president in a statement. “Fortunately, Rhode Island’s economic indicators are stable and unemployment is below the national average, so we don’t expect a drastic drop in prices. The low supply of homes should insulate prices from falling significantly, if at all, in the near future.”
Nov. 3, 2022
R.I. says $166m is available for affordable housing developers
NORTH KINGSTOWN — Approximately $166 million is available to help fund affordable housing development across the state, the governor announced Thursday.
The funding, which is sourced through a variety of federal and state programs, is earmarked to help build new units and preserve others.
“Rhode Island’s housing crisis was only made worse by the COVID pandemic, which is why we prioritized funding to increase housing availability and help unhoused Rhode Islanders in the American Rescue Plan,” said U.S. Congressman David Cicilline. “These new projects, funded in part by these federal dollars, will help the state to build new affordable housing units as we continue to tackle this crisis and ensure that every Rhode Islander has a safe and warm place to call home.”
Proposals are due before 4 p.m. on Jan. 12, 2023. Program descriptions and term sheets for each funding source are on RIHousing’s website.
Oct. 25, 2022
Data breach victims sue R.I. transit agency, insurer
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Two people whose personal information was compromised in a data breach at Rhode Island’s public bus service that affected about 22,000 people sued the agency and a health insurer on Tuesday seeking monetary damages and answers.
The class-action suit filed in Providence Superior Court by cooperating attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island names the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority and United Healthcare as defendants.
The personal information of roughly 5,000 RIPTA employees and retirees and thousands of other current, former and retired state workers, including Social Security numbers and Medicare identification numbers, was hacked in August 2021 through unauthorized access to RIPTA’s computer system.
“When an individual’s confidential personal and health care information is compromised, that individual will have to worry about the potential for identity theft which could lead to financial ruin by impacting their savings, livelihood, credit score, and access to health care,” ACLU attorney Peter Wasylyk said. “It can cause significant stress for the rest of that individual’s lifetime.”
The compromised information was provided by United, which previously administered the state employee health plan.
A United spokesperson said in a statement that the company is cooperating with the state attorney general’s office’s ongoing investigation into the breach.
“Protecting member privacy is a top priority and we continue to work with multiple parties to understand the data breach that impacted the Public Transit Authority’s computer system,” the statement said.
A spokesperson for RIPTA said in an email that the agency had no comment.
Alexandra Morelli, who works for the state but has never worked for RIPTA, said the data breach led to fraudulent withdrawals totaling thousands of dollars from her personal bank account and the unauthorized use of her credit cards, all while she was trying to plan her wedding.
She spent countless hours working with her bank, credit bureaus, and law enforcement trying to protect her personal information.
“This entire experience was and has continued to be extremely frustrating and anxiety provoking,” she said.
The suit alleges negligence by the state agency and the insurer, as well as violations of two state laws intended to protect personal information.
The suit also seeks a court order requiring the defendants to strengthen their cybersecurity safeguards and answers to what it says are unanswered questions, such as why RIPTA had the information of people who did not work at the agency and why it took fourth months to alert the victims about the breach.
Oct. 20, 2022
NP pleads guilty in $4.4m health care fraud scheme
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A nurse practitioner has pleaded guilty to fraudulently billing commercial health insurers and Medicare nearly $4.4 million for services that he never provided to patients as he had claimed, federal prosecutors said Thursday.
Alexander A. Istomin, 56, routinely submitted fraudulent claims for in-person patient services that he falsely claimed to have performed at offices in Rhode Island, New York and Florida, U.S. Attorney Zachary Cunha said in a statement.
In some cases, the patients that Istomin claimed he met with in person were in another country.
He also used patient names and other information to get prescriptions filled, which he would keep and then distribute to people other than those in whose names the prescriptions were filled, prosecutors said.
He also waived copayments for some Medicare patients, which is prohibited, and in return the patients would not report the fraudulent billing, prosecutors said.
Istomin pleaded guilty on Wednesday in federal court in Providence to 11 counts, including health care fraud and aggravated identity theft.
According to a plea agreement, he must also forfeit all the money he received from the scheme. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 26.
Joni Mitchell heading back onstage after Newport surprise
NEW YORK (AP) — Joni Mitchell’s return to the stage in August was a surprise, but fans can plan for the next one.
The 78-year-old music legend will perform June 10 at the Gorge Amphitheatre, a venue in Washington state east of Seattle, her friend, singer Brandi Carlile, announced on “The Daily Show” late Wednesday.
“I can’t believe it’s happening, but it’s happening,” Carlile said. “And she is going to crush it.”
Carlile brought Mitchell onstage with her at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island during the summer. The 78-year-old singer has battled back from suffering an aneurysm in 2015 and hadn’t performed a full show in public in two decades.
At Newport, they replicated a periodic jam session with musical friends that takes place in Mitchell’s California home. She sang and played guitar on favorites like “A Case of You,” “Both Sides Now” and “The Circle Game” as well as some standards.
Oct. 18, 2022
1st lease sale to be held for offshore wind on West Coast
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The Biden administration will hold the first-ever lease sale for offshore wind energy on the West Coast, officials said Tuesday.
The Dec. 6 sale will target areas in the Pacific Ocean off central and northern California— the first U.S. auction for commercial-scale floating offshore wind energy development. The administration hailed the upcoming sale at at a conference for offshore wind developers and experts in Providence, Rhode Island.
“We’re not just committed to the country’s transition to a clean energy economy, one that combats climate change, creates good-paying jobs and ensures economic opportunities are accessible to all. We’re actually taking action and driving results,” Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Amanda Lefton told the group.
The final sale notice for the auction will outline the details and lease terms for five areas off California, enough for 4.5 gigawatts of offshore wind to power more than 1.5 million homes and create thousands of new jobs, she said. The notice will include lease stipulations to promote a domestic supply chain and create union jobs.
Hundreds of offshore wind developers and experts gathered in Rhode Island to talk about the future of clean energy— how to grow the offshore wind industry and address shared challenges. The nation’s first offshore wind farm opened off the coast of Rhode Island in late 2016. But with five turbines, it’s not commercial scale.
JC Sandberg, the American Clean Power Association’s interim CEO, said Lefton’s “historic announcement” marks a significant milestone for offshore wind in the United States and on the West Coast.
More than half of the nation’s offshore wind resources are in waters too deep for bottom-fixed turbines, Lefton said. To date, BOEM has held 10 competitive lease sales and two commercial wind farms have been approved in the Atlantic Ocean.
Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee told conference attendees that ramping up offshore wind is good for the environment but also good for the economy and “we’re going to make the most of it here in Rhode Island.” With the offshore wind power Rhode Island plans to add to the grid, the state could meet over 70% of its estimated electricity demand in 2030 with carbon-free energy, McKee said.
Molly Morris, the incoming president of Equinor Wind US, said the industry is at a critical point and she hopes developers and regulators will come together at the conference to figure out how to make the permitting process faster and more transparent, build up the supply chain and bolster the grid.
President Joe Biden set a goal of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030 using traditional technology that secures wind turbines to the ocean floor, enough to power 10 million homes. The administration announced plans last month to develop floating platforms in the deep ocean for wind towers that could vastly expand offshore wind in the United States.
Biden hopes to deploy up to 15 gigawatts of electricity through floating sites by 2035, enough to power 5 million homes. The plan targets sites in the Pacific Ocean off the California and Oregon coasts, as well as in the Atlantic in the Gulf of Maine.
Equinor, based in Norway, is one of the few developers worldwide with experience in floating offshore wind. Morris said she’s “extremely enthusiastic” about the administration’s support for floating offshore wind since 15 gigawatts by 2035 is “quite an aggressive number in a relatively short period of time.” She said she’ll be closely evaluating the California opportunities.
Oct. 17, 2022
Owner of former ProJo building earns approval for tax deal from city council committee
PROVIDENCE — The Providence City Council Finance Committee voted on Monday to approve a 20-year tax stabilization agreement for the former Providence Journal building on Westminster Street, which has been vacant for at least 15 years.
The building, owned by Washington D.C.-based developer Jim Abdo, was supposed to be redeveloped into a Providence “Hotel Hive. But Abdo recently abandoned those plans to build a 124-unit apartment complex with retail opportunities on the ground floor. The new plans will require a new tax deal that would replace the one the council approved in 2019.
The full city council will vote on the proposed TSA at a later date.
Apartment units will range from about 300 to 540 square feet each, and rents will start at $1,100, but the average monthly rent will be approximately $1,800. Abdo plans on submitting building permits by the end of the year and start construction in the first half of 2023, which will take about 18 to 24 months.
A spokesman for Abdo said there could be retail opportunities on the building’s 2,400 square-foot enclosed rooftop. Retail spaces on the ground floor could include “fast-casual” businesses like a pizza restaurant, co-working spaces, and a beverage lounge.
The former Providence Journal building and neighboring Kresge Building are worth $3.9 million and generate approximately $139,700 in city taxes annually. The former Providence Journal building was built in 1906 and the newspaper only used it as its office for about 30 years before moving to 75 Fountain St. in 1934, which is still the paper’s office today. Next door, the Kresge building, was built in 1920.
Mayor-elect Brett Smiley and Lawrence Mancini, the city’s chief financial officer, said they supported the Hive’s new plans. But Senator Sam Bell, a progressive Democrat, testified against the tax stabilization agreement, saying Providence is in “serious financial struggle” and can’t afford the deal.
“You want to see this building come back online,” said outgoing council president John Igliozzi in his support for the project and a tax stabilization agreement. “Unfortunately, because of how the business market is, we have to help.”
Dr. Megan Ranney elected to National Academy of Medicine
PROVIDENCE — Dr. Megan L. Ranney, a national commentator and deputy dean at Brown University’s School of Public Health, has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine. Ranney, who is also an emergency medicine professor at The Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown, will be one of 100 new members in the Academy’s 2022 class.
“I am beyond honored by this election,” Ranney said. “The National Academy of Medicine serves as a touchstone for rigorous science and respectful scientific debate. This evidence-centered community matters immensely as we confront multiple medical and public health challenges — particularly in this moment, when science and scientific communication matter so deeply to the world. It is so meaningful to have been elected as a member.”
Oct. 14, 2022
Rhode Island Energy looks to bring more offshore wind to the state
PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island Energy announced on Friday that it issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to solicit an additional 600 to 1,000 MW of offshore wind to help power the state’s energy needs.
With the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission, Rhode Island Energy filed a draft RFP on Sept. 6.
These new offshore wind projects would add to the Block Island wind farm and the proposed Revolution Wind project. Along with those projects, this additional procurement could help meet over 70 percent of the state’s estimated 2030 electricity demand with carbon-free energy.
“We promised that we would lead when it came to helping Rhode Island meet its clean energy goals, and achieving this latest milestone is proof of our commitment,” said Dave Bonenberger, president of Rhode Island Energy, in a statement. “This procurement is critical to meeting the state’s 100 percent renewable generation goal by the 2033 target and accelerating growth in the local clean energy economy.”
Oct. 12, 2022
Maternova appoints Dr. Luna Mehrain as chief medical officer
PROVIDENCE — Maternova Inc., a global health solutions company, has appointed Dr. Luna M. Mehrain as its new chief medical officer.
Mehrain brings more than 20 years of experience as a physician, as well as medical advisor in development and humanitarian contexts around the world.
Oct. 6, 2022
CVS Health appoints Dr. Amar Desai to lead newly formed organization
WOONSOCKET — CVS Health announced on Wednesday it has appointed Dr. Amar Desai as president of Health Care Delivery, a newly formed organization overseeing the implementation of the company’s health services and care delivery strategy. Desai will begin Oct. 17.
Desai previously served as president and CEO of Optum Pacific West, where he was responsible for overseeing an integrated delivery network with more than 20,000 physicians who were serving 2.5 million patients. Prior to Optum, Desai served as president of HealthCare Partners, a value-based medical group serving more than 700,000 patients.
“This new organization will leverage the strength of the CVS Health portfolio to develop and implement payor-agnostic products and services,” said CVS Health President and CEO Karen S. Lynch in a statement. “Amar’s deep background in clinical delivery and value-based care will be an asset as we continue to deliver high quality health and wellness care to our members and consumers.”
Oct. 5, 2022
REGENT enters agreement with German ferry operator to add R.I.-made seagliders to its fleet
PROVIDENCE — REGENT, the company developing all-electric seaglider, announced Tuesday that FRS, the worldwide ferry operator based in Germany, has entered an agreement to add REGENT’s seagliders to its fleet.
The partnership between REGENT and FRS is for building and operating of two seagliders types: the Viceroys, each holding up to 12 passengers or critical cargo up to 3,500 pounds in 746 cubic feet, and the Monarchs, which can hold up to 100 passengers.
With this latest deal, REGENT’s international and domestic commercial sales now total more than $7 billion.
Oct. 4, 2022
Hasbro toys announces plan to grow profit by 50 percent over 3 years
PAWTUCKET — Hasbro, Inc., hosted its first investor day under the leadership of new CEO Chris Cooks on Tuesday, where the company unveiled Hasbro’s new go-forward plan to grow its profit by at least 50 percent over three years.
The plan is a result of a nine-month strategic review that focused on creating “near-term, meaningful change” that is expected to deliver positive financial impact as early as the fourth quarter of this year.
According to a news release, Hasbro toys will focus investments on its most valuable franchises across toys, games, entertainment, and licensing. The company will implement an operational excellence program designed to deliver about $250 million to $300 million in run rate cost savings over the next three years. About $150 million is expected in run rate savings by the end of 2023.
Some of these investments include expanding brands like NERFBALL, Transformers, Dungeons & Dragons, and Magic: The Gathering.
Play-Doh, Peppa Pig, and other collaborations with Marvel and Star Wars will anchor expansions into the company’s preschool growth, which is expected to result in a $1 billion plus combined growth opportunity.
“Hasbro has many strengths: amazing brands that span generations, a gaming portfolio second to none, a history of play and entertainment innovation led by some of the best teams in the business, and unwavering corporate citizenship,” said Cocks in a statement. “Building on these strengths, today we announced a new day for Hasbro with the introduction of Blueprint 2.0. This strategic approach is core to how we’ll continue to bring our strong brands to life for consumers of all ages, and how we’ll manage the business to monetize our intellectual property, drive investments, deliver profitable growth and create shareholder value.”
The news comes as the company announced Dan Rawson as its new senior vice president of Dungeons & Dragons. Rawson was previously the operations chief of Microsoft Dynamics 365.
Sept. 29, 2022
Bryant launches business analytics, data science, healthcare information, and taxation programs
SMITHFIELD — Bryant University announced on Thursday the launch of four new graduate programs that the school said would empower students to succeed in a “global, data-driven digital economy.”
New STEM-designated in-person Master’s degree programs in business analytics, data science, and healthcare informatics are enrolling for Fall of 2023. The Master’s in taxation will be delivered online and is slated to start next fall.
These new graduate programs are part of the university’s Vision 2030 Strategic Plan, which called for academics to further align with the evolving workforce’s demands.
“Through Vision 2030, we are forging a new era of growth and academic innovation at Bryant University,” says Ross Gittell, university president and economist. “The value and return on investment on our innovative, highly ranked academic programs is attracting increasing attention of students, families, alumni, media, and corporate partners around the world.”
Sept. 27, 2022
US Commerce gives $4m to boost R.I. small business development hub
PROVIDENCE — U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo announced on Tuesday is awarding a $4 million CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant to Skills for Rhode Island’s Future to establish the Rhode Island Small Business Development Hub.
The hub is designed to provide support to small businesses including human resources, legal services, finance and accounting, marketing, and other professional services. This EDA grant will be matched with $1.2 million in local funds and is expected to create 500 jobs, retain 800 jobs and generate $10 million in private investment, according to grantee estimates.
“President Biden is committed to ensuring that our communities are provided with the resources they need to diversify and grow their economies,” said Raimondo, the former governor of Rhode Island, in a statement. “The Rhode Island Small Business Development Hub will provide small and disadvantaged businesses and entrepreneurs with the resources they need to create jobs and promote economic resilience in the region.”
Skills for Rhode Island’s Future, a public-private partnership, launched in October 2016 when Raimondo was governor. It was formed to meet the hiring needs of employers. It offered customized talent sourcing solutions to place qualified long-term unemployed and underemployed candidates into available positions.
Bally’s completes acquisition of Las Vegas casino and hotel
PROVIDENCE — Bally’s Corporation announced on Tuesday its completion of the previously announced acquisition of the Tropicana Las Vegas with Gaming & Leisure Properties, Inc. and PENN Entertainment, Inc.
The transaction, which totaled to $148 million, will require Tropicana to lease the land from Bally’s for an initial term of 50 years at annual rent of $10.5 million.
Sept. 16, 2022
Marc Crisafulli, a Bally’s executive, to retire
PROVIDENCE — Marc Crisafulli, the executive vice president of government relations, legal and regulatory at Bally’s Corporation, announced he would retire effective immediately.
It’s unclear what led Crisafulli to retire so suddenly after three years with the company.
“I will spend more time with family, traveling and helping others who face similar challenges. R.I. is my hometown and I will stay involved. Thanks to all,” Crisafulli tweeted on Friday.
Crisafulli joined the company in May 2019. During his time at Bally’s, he helped advance the company’s strategy by “overseeing critical legislation and spearheading important partnerships in Rhode Island,” according to a news release.
He helped create the Marc A. Crisafulli Economic Development Act, which gave a 20-year extension to run the state’s lottery system to IGT in a no-bid contract. IGT agreed to partner with Bally’s on a $100 million expansion of its casinos in Tiverton and Lincoln. The bill was signed in 2021, when Crisafulli was battling cancer at the time.
Sept. 15, 2022
R.I. to receive $82.5m grant to upgrade iconic Pell Bridge
NEWPORT — Rhode Island is expected to receive an $82.5 million grant from the US Department of Transportation to upgrade the iconic Pell Bridge that connects Newport and Jamestown.
US Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressman Jim Langevin and David Cicilline announced Thursday that planned improvements to the deck, suspension system, and towers will extend the life of New England’s longest suspension bridge by “an additional 50 to 75 years.”
The project will include a partial depth replacement and rehabilitation of the bridge deck in the main suspended and west approach spans, according to Whitehouse’s office. Climate change has led to more severe storms and more frequent use of salt and other treatments to make the road safe for travel, which accelerates the loss of pavement quality. The new pavement will be made out of a denser material that is more resistant to the effects of chemical deterioration.
The Pell Bridge opened in 1969 and was dedicated in honor of the late US Senator Claiborne Bell. The bridge carries four lanes of traffic across Narragansett Bay and is operated by the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority.
“This investment from the U.S. Department of Transportation will accelerate and expand planned maintenance and extend the life of the iconic Newport Pell Bridge by an additional 50 to 75 years,” said Lori Caron Silveira, executive director of the authority in a statement Thursday. “With collaboration across state government, leadership from our federal team, and support from private sector partners and organized labor, we are confident that this is only the beginning.”
The news comes just four years after Rhode Island’s congressional delegation secured $20 million in federal funding to upgrade the ramps leading from Aquidneck Island to the Pell Bridge in 2018.
R.I. unemployment rate increases to 2.8 percent
CRANSTON — Rhode Island’s unemployment rate was 2.8 percent in August, the state’s Department of Labor and Training announced Thursday, which is an increase from 2.7 percent in July.
The number of employed Rhode Island residents was 558,700, up 700 over the month and up 17,900 over the year. Since April 2020, the number of employed Rhode Island residents is up 112,600, according to the state.
Two sectors — professional and technical services and administration and waste services — were the only that reported job losses in August, cutting 300 and 200 jobs respectively.
Governor Dan J. McKee said Rhode Island has momentum “and we are seeing that month after month.”
“It is the focus of my administration each and every day to build on that momentum and increase families’ incomes across Rhode Island,” said McKee in a statement Thursday. “Today’s news is encouraging, showing that jobs have increased by 2,500 over the month and that the state has regained nearly 92 percent of the jobs lost during the pandemic.”
Last year, the rate was 5.8 percent in August.
The U.S. unemployment rate was 3.7 percent in August, which is an increase from 3.5 percent in July.
“In addition to historically-low unemployment rates, Rhode Island has one of the top-ranked economic recoveries in the nation and there are good-paying jobs still available,” said McKee.
Sept. 14, 2022
Hawkins Way Capital acquires 247-unit student housing apartment on College Hill
PROVIDENCE — Hawkins Way Capital announced Wednesday that it acquired The Edge at College Hill, a 247-unit apartment building serving students at Brown University, the Rhode Island School of Design, and Johnson & Wales University.
After some improvements, the company intends to rename the building “FOUND Study College Hill” and integrate it into a nationwide network of FOUND student housing properties totaling more than 3,000 beds managed by Hawkins Way Capital and their affiliates.
FOUND Study College Hill is comprised of a 15-story high-rise tower and 5-story midrise historic building which offer furnished studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments to students, according to a Hawkins news release.
“FOUND Study College Hill, located on Providence’s Main Street and proximate to ample shopping, dining and entertainment destinations, is positioned to provide high-value housing for local students in a market historically lacking premium student housing supply,” said Ross Walker, Hawkins Way Capital’s managing partner, in a statement Wednesday.
Hawkins Way Capital, which is based in California, recently purchased the 1,220-room Sheraton Boston Hotel in the Back Bay neighborhood for $233 million in February. The deal was a joint venture with global asset manager Värde Partners.
FOUND Study College Hill marks Hawkins’s seventh acquisition since December 2021, combining more than $930 million in investments.
Sept. 13, 2022
CVS Health appoints Dr. Jeffrey Balser to board of directors
WOONSOCKET — CVS Health appointed Dr. Jeffrey R. Balser on Tuesday to serve on its board of directors effective immediately. Balser has also been named to the Board’s Medical Affairs Committee.
“Dr. Balser’s extensive experience in a wide range of roles across health care organizations will be an invaluable asset for the Board,” said CVS Health President and CEO Karen S. Lynch. “His deep clinical expertise and leadership of a prestigious health system gives him the insight to help support our strategy to serve consumers and meet their health needs differently.”
Balser has served as the CEO and president of Vanderbilt University Medical Center since 2009. He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and serves on its governing council. He also currently serves on the boards of VUMC, Tulane University, and the Nashville Health Care Council.
Sept. 11, 2022
URI’s efforts to study plastic pollution receives federal boost
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Researchers at the University of Rhode Island are getting some federal assistance for their efforts to better understand plastic pollution and the threat it poses to the ocean.
The university is set to receive $1 million in grant funding dedicated to studying how plastics spread through the environment as well as ways to reduce their harmful impact.
Plastic products are a leading type of marine pollution, devastating oceanic ecosystems and entangling large animals. Tiny particles released from textiles, packaging or discarded plastics, meanwhile, have been found in fish, birds and people.
URI already has a network of nearly 50 faculty members in different departments working on efforts to study and address plastic pollution.
“Unchecked plastics pollution is a threat to our health, our environment, and our economy,” said Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin of Rhode Island, who helped to get the funding approved.
Langevin and U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, announced the grant money last week.
Sept. 7, 2022
AMPed up: Providence arena announces new naming rights deal
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Insurance company Amica has reached a 10-year deal for the naming rights to the downtown Providence arena that for two decades has been known as the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
The 14,000-seat facility will now be known as the Amica Mutual Pavilion, or the AMP Providence, the Lincoln-based insurer and the Rhode Island Convention Center Authority announced Tuesday.
The deal is worth about $900,000 per year.
“Amica was founded in Providence more than 115 years ago, and securing naming rights to the Civic Center honors our lasting commitment to the state,” Ted Shallcross, who takes over as Amica’s president and CEO on Oct. 1, said in a statement.
The venue that opened in 1972 was originally known as the Providence Civic Center but had been called the Dunkin’ Donuts Center — or simply “the Dunk” — since 2001.
It is home to the Providence College men’s basketballl team, the minor league Providence Bruins hockey team, and also hosts concerts and family events. It was used as a testing and a mass vaccination site during the coronavirus pandemic.
Sept. 5, 2022
CVS to buy home health-care provider Signify for $8 billion
DALLAS (AP) — Drugstore operator CVS Health Corp. said Monday that it will buy home-health provider Signify Health for $8 billion.
CVS said Signify has more than 10,000 employees including physicians and nurses, a presence in every state, and offers technology platforms.
“This acquisition will enhance our connection to consumers in the home and enables providers to better address patient needs as we execute our vision to redefine the health care experience,” CVS CEO Karen Lynch said in a statement announcing the deal.
The acquisition would continue CVS’ effort to grow from its pharmacy-chain roots to other sectors of the health industry. In 2018, the Woonsocket, Rhode Island, company purchased health insurer Aetna for $69 billion.
Aug. 30, 2022
Congregation facing eviction from nation’s oldest synagogue
A Jewish congregation in New York City has moved to evict Rhode Island congregants who worship at the nation’s oldest synagogue as part of a long-running dispute over control of the historic building.
The New York-based Congregation Shearith Israel on Monday filed a motion in state District Court to take control of Touro Synagogue by removing its current tenants — the Newport-based Congregation Jeshuat Israel.
Congregation Shearith Israel said in court documents that it sent a notice in October demanding that Congregation Jeshuat Israel leave the premises as of Monday.
“CJI, and any others still in possession of the premises, must vacate the premises as of midnight on the termination date,” Shearith Israel wrote.
Members of Congregation Jeshuat Israel released a statement Friday saying their goal was to have a long-term lease so the congregation could have the security of knowing they and future generations can continue to worship in the synagogue.
Aug. 24, 2022
Brown University acquires trove of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s prison papers
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Brown University has acquired a trove of records, writings and artwork from Mumia Abu-Jamal, a political activist and journalist who spent decades on death row for the shooting death of a Philadelphia police officer in the 1980s.
The Ivy League university in Providence, Rhode Island, says the collection documents Abu-Jamal’s trial, prison and death row experience, which gained him global recognition as a face of the movement against the death penalty.
Abu-Jamal is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole after Philadelphia prosecutors agreed to drop their death penalty case in 2011.
But the former Black Panther Party member has for decades maintained his innocence in the killing of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, who witnesses testified was fatally shot by Abu-Jamal as he was arresting his brother during a traffic stop.
Brown University says that the collection was acquired through a trust and that the purchase price is confidential. It includes more than 60 boxes of materials spanning the years 1981 to 2020.
Among its items is a pair of glasses Abu-Jamal wore for years; journals filled with his personal thoughts, poems and legal arguments; and part of the visitor list Abu-Jamal is still required to maintain, the university said.
Brown has also obtained related personal papers from Johanna Fernández, a Brown graduate and longtime advocate for Abu-Jamal whom he has entrusted with storing his papers.
Together, the materials will anchor a new collecting focus at the university’s John Hay Library called “Voices of Mass Incarceration.”
The university says the effort will help researchers understand how the “expanding carceral system has transformed American society” by giving them “unprecedented access” to first-person accounts of incarcerated people.
“This collection will give scholars a rare chance to peer inside prison walls and understand how incarcerated people live, think and advocate for themselves,” said Kenvi Phillips, director of library diversity, equity and inclusion at Brown.
Aug. 21, 2022
2 more Coast Guard cutters now call Rhode Island home
NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) — A pair of 270-foot (82.3-meter) U.S. Coast Guard vessels involved in search-and-rescue operations, military exercises and maritime law enforcement are now based in Rhode Island, authorities said Friday.
The cutters Tahoma and Campbell, each with a crew of about 100, were welcomed to Naval Station Newport at a ceremony attended by Democratic U.S. Sen. Senator Jack Reed, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Linda Fagan and other dignitaries.
“Saving lives, stopping drug smugglers, supporting national security missions overseas, and keeping commerce flowing across the waves are all in a day’s work for the Coast Guard, and we are grateful for the unwavering dedication and professionalism of our Coast Guard members,” Reed said in a statement. “The Coast Guard has an active presence here in Rhode Island, and we’re pleased to see it grow even stronger.”
Both cutters had previously been based at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in New Hampshire.
The medium-endurance cutters are part of the Famous-class of vessels that began service in the late 1980s. Both are are equipped with sophisticated communication and navigation equipment and armed with a 76mm deck gun and carry an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter.
Newport is already home to three other Coast Guard cutters.
Aug. 19, 2022
R.I. delegation calls for SBA to distribute remaining Restaurant Revitalization Fund dollars
PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation is calling on the U.S. Small Business Administration to provide additional support to Rhode Island’s restaurants that are still feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Restaurant Revitalization Fund still has $180 million in unobligated funds and U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline want Rhode Island’s restaurants to be prioritized.
In a letter to SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline requested that the SBA use the remaining $180 million to prioritize restaurants in states with the lowest percentage of funded eligible applicants to “to ensure program funds are distributed in a geographically equitable manner.”
Only 30 percent of restaurants in Rhode Island that applied to the Restaurant Revitalization Fund actually received relief — which is the lowest rate in the country by more than 10 percentage points compared to any other state in New England. Applicants were considered on a first-come, first-serve basis. Smaller restaurant owners have told the Globe previously that they were not able to file fast enough due to fewer resources and the ongoing labor shortage.
Senate Republicans blocked bipartisan legislation in May that would have appropriated another $40 billion toward the fund. The bill failed to receive the necessary 60 votes after five Republicans voted against considering it. The additional funding would have been enough to provide every fund applicant that had not received assistance with a full grant.
“While we are disappointed that congressional Republicans have prevented Congress from sufficiently funding RRF, we understand SBA still has $180 million in unobligated program funds,” in the delegation’s letter to Guzman. “Even with some set aside for litigation or required to be sent to the Department of the Treasury, awards on that scale could make a transformative difference for the numerous restaurants still struggling with aftershocks from the pandemic’s economic crash.”
Aug. 17, 2022
Providence launches grant program for arts and culture events
PROVIDENCE — The city announced a new grant program that’s designed to help nonprofits pay for public arts and culture events. Grants are worth up to $50,000 and are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Applicants must be registered, 501(c) arts and culture organizations with city addresses that organize special programs like outdoor dining, festivals or crafts, food markets, among other events and can show that they were hit financially during the pandemic.
The $500,000 program was paid for using a portion of Providence’s American Rescue Plan Act dollars.
Judge: CVS, other pharmacies owe 2 Ohio counties $650m in opioids suit
CLEVELAND (AP) — A federal judge in Cleveland awarded $650 million in damages Wednesday to two Ohio counties that won a landmark lawsuit against national pharmacy chains CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart, claiming the way they distributed opioids to customers caused severe harm to communities and created a public nuisance.
US District Judge Dan Polster said in the ruling that the money will be used to abate a continuing opioid crisis in Lake and Trumbull counties, outside Cleveland. Attorneys for the counties put the total price tag at $3 billion for the damage done to the counties.
Lake County is to receive $306 million over 15 years. Trumbull County is to receive $444 million over the same period. Polster ordered the companies to immediately pay nearly $87 million to cover the first two years of the abatement plan.
In his ruling, Polster admonished the three companies, saying they “squandered the opportunity to present a meaningful plan to abate the nuisance’' after a trial that considered what damages they might owe.
Walmart and Walgreens both said they will be appealing the ruling. CVS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trumbull County Commissioner Frank Fuda praised the award in a statement, saying “the harms caused by this devastating epidemic’' can now be addressed.
Lake County Commissioner John Hamercheck said in a statement “Today marks the start of a new day in our fight to end the opioid epidemic.”
A jury returned a verdict in November in favor of the counties after a six-week trial. It was then left to Polster to decide how much the counties should receive from the three pharmacy companies. He heard testimony in May to determine damages.
The counties convinced the jury that the pharmacies played an outsized role in creating a public nuisance in the way they dispensed pain medication into their communities.
It was the first time pharmacy companies completed a trial to defend themselves in a drug crisis that has killed a half-million Americans since 1999.
Attorneys for the pharmacy chains maintained they had policies to stem the flow of pills when their pharmacists had concerns and would notify authorities about suspicious orders from doctors. They also said it was doctors who controlled how many pills were prescribed for legitimate medical needs not their pharmacies.
Walmart issued a statement Wednesday saying the counties’ attorneys “sued Walmart in search of deep pockets, and this judgment follows a trial that was engineered to favor the plaintiffs’ attorneys and was riddled with remarkable legal and factual mistakes. We will appeal.”
Walgreens spokesperson Fraser Engerman said ‘’The facts and the law did not support the jury verdict last fall, and they do not support the court’s decision now.
“The court committed significant legal errors in allowing the case to go before a jury on a flawed legal theory that is inconsistent with Ohio law and compounded those errors in reaching its ruling regarding damages.”
CVS is based in Rhode Island, Walgreens in Illinois and Walmart in Arkansas.
Two chains — Rite Aid and Giant Eagle — settled lawsuits with the counties before trial. The amounts they paid have not been disclosed publicly.
Mark Lanier, an attorney for the counties, said during trial that the pharmacies were attempting to blame everyone but themselves.
The opioid crisis has overwhelmed courts, social services agencies and law enforcement in Ohio’s blue-collar corner east of Cleveland, leaving behind heartbroken families and babies born to addicted mothers, Lanier told jurors.
Roughly 80 million prescription painkillers were dispensed in Trumbull County alone between 2012 and 2016 — equivalent to 400 for every resident. In Lake County, some 61 million pills were distributed during that period.
The rise in physicians prescribing pain medications such as oxycodone and hydrocodone came as medical groups began recognizing that patients have the right to be treated for pain, Kaspar Stoffelmayr, an attorney for Walgreens, said at the opening of the trial.
The problem, he said, was “pharmaceutical manufacturers tricked doctors into writing way too many pills.”
The counties said pharmacies should be the last line of defense to prevent the pills from getting into the wrong hands.
The trial before Polster was part of a broader constellation of about 3,000 federal opioid lawsuits consolidated under the his supervision. Other cases are moving ahead in state courts.
Kevin Roy, chief public policy officer at Shatterproof, an organization that advocates for solutions to addiction, said in November the verdict could lead pharmacies to follow the path of major distribution companies and some drugmakers that have reached nationwide settlements of opioid cases worth billions. So far, no pharmacy has reached a nationwide settlement.
CEO of Hasbro’s eOne division stepping down by end of year
PAWTUCKET — Darren Throop, the CEO and president of Hasbro Inc.’s Entertainment One division, announced this week that he will step down at the end of the year when his contract expires.
Throop has been with the division for 20 years and played a lead role in Hasbro’s acquisition in the company in 2019 for $3.8 billion.
Hasbro representatives did not specify why Throop was leaving the division.
Aug. 12, 2022
Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island names Talia Brookshire as company’s first chief diversity officer
SMITHFIELD — Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island named Talia Brookshire as its first-ever chief diversity officer and a member of its executive leadership team on Thursday after a national search.
In the newly created position, Brookshire will lead the strategic and day-to-day operational advancement of Neighborhood’s diversity, equity, and inclusion “culture and practices” while building out the company’s diversity initiatives, multicultural marketing campaigns, and community-building outreach.
Prior to joining Neighborhood, Brookshire lead grassroots programs in various industries including professional and Olympic sports governing bodies, universities, manufacturing and non-profit agencies, according to a news release. Most recently, Brookshire worked for Western Governors University.
“Talia’s impressive body of work in the diversity, equity and inclusion space and the energy and passion she exhibits for this important work quickly made her a favorite during our national search,” said Peter Marino, Neighborhood’s president and CEO.
Aug. 11, 2022
Restaurant group in Newport sued by federal government for wage violations
NEWPORT — The owners of a major Newport restaurant group is being sued by the federal government for alleged federal wage violations.
The owners behind Stoneacre Brasserie, Stoneacre Garden, Stoneacre Tapas, and Stoneacre Picnics — as well as owners Christopher Bender and David Crowell — are listed as the defendants in a federal lawsuit that was filed last week in U.S. District County by United States Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh.
The U.S. Department of Labor is claiming that Bender and Crowell, who are both managers at the Stoneacre locations, were among those receiving tips from the tip-sharing pool — which is a violation of federal law.
“As this is an ongoing legal matter, we are not able to comment at this time,” a Stoneacre spokeswoman wrote in an email Friday.
In the lawsuit, Walsh alleged the defendants did not pay their employees the federal minimum wage, kept tips, failed to maintain accurate employment-related records, and required overtime. Walsh also claimed that the restaurant group misclassified employees as exempt from overtime pay requirements.
According to court documents, these violations allegedly took place between April 2016 and January 2021.
Aug. 10, 2022
Bryant University names new VP for business affairs
SMITHFIELD — Bryant University named Donna Ng its new vice president for business affairs and chief financial officer after a national search.
Ng will begin her term Oct. 3, 2022 after working as the vice president for finance and administration at Skidmore College. She will serve on the university’s leadership team and have a vital role in advancing initiatives of Bryant’s Vision 2030 Strategic Plan.
Aug. 9, 2022
KVH Q2 earnings snapshot
MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (AP) _ KVH Industries Inc. (KVHI) on Tuesday reported a loss of $1.4 million in its second quarter.
The Middletown, Rhode Island-based company said it had a loss of 8 cents per share. Earnings, adjusted for one-time gains and costs, were 4 cents per share.
The maker of mobile communication and navigation equipment posted revenue of $41.8 million in the period.
Salem named chair of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution board
Paul Salem, a senior managing director emeritus at Providence Equity Partners, has been named chair of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s board of trustees.
Salem, a Rhode Island resident, will transition into the role officially on Jan. 1, taking over for David Scully, who has served as the board chair for the past seven years.
“I am humbled by the opportunity to serve with the leadership of WHOI and the Board of Trustees,” Salem said. “This role will combine my passion for the ocean with the opportunity to work with the amazing scientists and engineers at WHOI to remain a world leader in protecting and saving our oceans.”
Salem served for 28 years as a senior managing director at Providence Equity Partners, a global private equity firm specializing in the media and communication industries. While at Providence, he helped grow Providence’s assets under management from $171 million to over $50 billion. He also serves as chairman of MGM Resorts International.
Salem is the former chairman of the board of Year Up, a nonprofit focusing on closing the opportunity divide for low-income young adults. And he is a board member of Edesia Global Nutrition, a social enterprise that treats acute nutrition around the globe.
Salem is a graduate of Brown University and received a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard Business School. He is now enrolled in the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative, focusing on climate change and the oceans.
“Trustee leadership speaks to a special connection to the institution and its mission,” WHOI President and Director Peter de Menocal said. “It is an honor and privilege to have Paul join our community, filling the shoes of David Scully. Paul is a remarkable leader with a deep commitment to making a difference. I am certain he will help WHOI achieve new levels of leadership.”
Aug. 8, 2022
CVS may acquire Signify Health to broaden medical services
Woonsocket-based CVS Health may acquire Signify Health Inc. in order to expand into the home-health services market, according to the Wall Street Journal on Monday.
Signify Health is also looking to strategic alternatives, including a sale.
“Initial bids are due this coming week and CVS is planning to enter one, some of the people said. Others also are in the mix, they said, and CVS could face competition from other managed-care providers and private-equity firms,” the report by the Wall Street Journal said.
Signify’s shares rose more than 18 percent in premarket trading Monday after reports of CVS’s potential acquisition.
Wall Street has largely focused on CVS’s efforts to add primary-care practices and doctors to its payroll, though executives have also discussed their ambitions to expand its in-home health presence,” reported the Wall Street Journal.
Aug. 5, 2022
Gannett, parent company of Providence Journal and Newport Daily News, reports $53.7m loss
Gannett Co., the parent company that owns and operates the Providence Journal, Newport Daily News, and several other local newspapers, reported a $53.7 million loss in the second quarter on Thursday, a decrease from a $14.7 million profit in 2021.
The company, which operates publications in 45 states and has some operations in the United Kingdom, also sent a solemn email to staff that showed layoffs were on the way.
Media division head Maribel Perez Wadsworth warned of these layoffs in the “coming days” and wrote in an email “we will … be making necessary but painful reductions to staffing, eliminating some open positions and roles that will impact valued colleagues.”
Gannett’s stock fell another 28.5 percent after already being down by 45 percent this year.
Mike Reed, Gannett’s CEO and chairman who earned $7.74 million in 2021, told analysts on a call that digital advertising fell below expectations as companies reduced their schedule, both print circulation and print advertising were “off more than expected,”labor shortages and expenses are rising, the cost of newsprint is up by 31 percent, and inflation and “economy uncertainty” is not expected to improve.
“We are not satisfied with our overall performance in the second quarter,” Reed said in a release. Later on Thursday during a company earnings call he said, “Like many companies across many industries, we experienced a very challenging second quarter resulting from the difficult economic environment and rising pressures on the consumer.”
“Our weakening consumer demand led to larger-than-expected decline in print subscription revenues, effectively pulling forward expected print revenue losses,” he continued.
However, Reed claimed that Gannett has grown its number of paid digital-only subscribers and the revenue they generate by 35 percent over the last year.
Aug. 4, 2022
Bally’s beats Wall Street expectations, reporting Q2 income of $59.5m
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Bally’s Corporation on Thursday reported second-quarter net income of $59.5 million.
On a per-share basis, the Providence, Rhode Island-based company said it had net income of 98 cents. Earnings, adjusted for non-recurring gains, came to 32 cents per share.
The results beat Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of four analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 25 cents per share.
The hotel casino operator posted revenue of $552.5 million in the period, which fell short of Street forecasts. Five analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $601.9 million.
Bally’s expects full-year revenue in the range of $2.2 billion to $2.3 billion.
Bally’s shares have dropped 40% since the beginning of the year. The stock has dropped 52% in the last 12 months.
Aug. 3, 2022
CVS reports strong Q2 results
WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS Health Corporation on Wednesday reported second-quarter net income of $2.95 billion.
“Despite a challenging economic environment, our differentiated business model helped drive strong results this quarter, with significant revenue growth across all of our business segments,” said Karen S. Lynch, Woonsocket-based CVS Health president and CEO, in a statement.
The company paid down $1.5 billion of long-term debt, while returning $740 million to shareholders through dividends during the three months ended June 30.
The Woonsocket, Rhode Island-based company said it had net income of $2.23 per share. Earnings, adjusted for one-time gains and costs, came to $2.40 per share.
The results beat Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of 10 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $2.16 per share.
The drugstore chain and pharmacy benefits manager posted revenue of $80.64 billion in the period, which also topped Street forecasts. Eight analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $76.57 billion.
CVS Health expects full-year earnings in the range of $8.40 to $8.60 per share.
CVS Health Corporation announced Wednesday that the company saw total revenues increases to $80.6 billion for the three months that ended on June 30, which is an increase of 11 percent compared to 2021. Total revenues increased to $157.5 billion for the year.
CVS also enrolled six million active users on the company’s individualized “Health Dashboard” since its launch earlier this year. CVS has also expanded free health screenings in support of community health partners as part of the company’s “commitment to advancing health equity.”
This report also included content from the Associated Press.
First woman of color elected new RIHEBC board chair
The Rhode Island Health and Educational Building Corporation’s board members voted to name Channavy Chhay as their next Chair effective immediately, the organization announced Wednesday.
Chhay has served as the executive director of the Center for Southeast Asians in Providence since 2011. She is the first woman of color to serve as RIHEBC board chair.