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Saturday, January 27, 2024

State Treasurer James Diossa lists legislative priorities

Secure Choice, Crime Victim Compensation, and Baby Bonds


Treasurer Diossa was joined by Catherine Taylor, State Director of the AARP; Oscar Mejias, CEO of the Rhode Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Kristina Contreras-Fox, Director of Policy at the Rhode Island Black Business Association; Peg Langhammer, Executive Director at Day One; Vanessa Volz, Executive Director at Sojourner House; Dr. Darrick Hamilton, Professor of Economics and Urban Policy at the New School; and Nina Harrison, Policy Director at the Economic Progress Institute.

Rhode Island General Treasurer James Diossa unveiled his legislative priorities during a roundtable meeting with community stakeholders in the State House Library. 

During the program, Treasurer Diossa advanced three ideas that he maintains are investments in Rhode Islanders - the Secure Choice Act, a Crime Victim Compensation Program package, and the Rhode Island Baby Bond Trust Act.

You can watch the full roundtable here.


The Rhode Island Secure Retirement Savings Program Act would create a retirement savings plan for private sector employees whose employer does not currently offer a retirement savings option. 

The program will be administered by the Office of the General Treasurer. The program seeks to create a convenient and low-cost way to help ensure Rhode Islanders are financially secure in retirement. 

Employee participation is voluntary, and contributions are made to an individual retirement account through payroll deductions. The savings plans are portable, so if an employee switches jobs, the plan will follow them. This bill is modeled after successful legislation enacted in 19 other states, including Illinois, Connecticut, Virginia, and California.

"Secure choice, as we all know, has been pushed for many years," said Treasurer Diossa. "This is a great program to help secure retirement for people in our communities who don't have access to a retirement benefit program. Secure Choice will allow us to help families retire honorably in our state and more importantly, have enough funding so that they don't have to rely on state subsidy programs.

"With the Secure Choice Act, we are making sure private sector employees have the necessary funds for a comfortable retirement.”


The bills in Treasurer Diossa’s Crime Victim Compensation Package aim to make the Crime Victim Compensation Program more accessible for victims of violent crime. Administered by the Office of the General Treasurer, the Crime Victim Compensation Program has helped thousands of innocent Rhode Islanders cover the financial cost of crime. In cooperation with legislative partners, the proposed bills would:

  • Reduce eligibility barriers for victims of sexual assault by allowing them to submit the results of a medical forensic exam performed by a licensed health care provider instead of a police report;
  • Help victims feel more comfortable in their homes by permitting them to use up to $1,000 of their total award to make reasonable modifications to their residence, such as re-keying a lock or purchasing a security camera;
  • Expand Program eligibility by allowing hit-and-run victims who suffer serious bodily injuries – currently excluded under the law – to qualify for up to $25,000; and
  • Ensure Treasury continues to have the ability to offer meaningful financial assistance to those who have undergone a criminal ordeal through the implementation of an additional $1.00 fine on traffic violations (excluding parking violations) that would help to fund the Program.

"The Crime Victims' Compensation Program is a program that serves people during very difficult times," said Treasurer Diossa, noting that his office has reached out to the family of Jocelyn DoCouto, who was killed over the weekend in an apparent domestic homicide. 

"The adjustments that we want to make to the crime victims program will make it much more accessible, breaking down barriers for any victim to be able to participate in this program."


The Rhode Island Baby Bond Trust Act, promises Treasurer Diossa, is a long-term investment in the future of our State to spur economic development while helping to close the generational wealth gap. The Act would create a $3,000 trust for each Rhode Island child born into a family receiving public health insurance (Medicaid). 

These trusts would be managed and invested by the Office of the General Treasurer in cooperation with third-party managers until the child reaches their 18th birthday. On turning 18, the child would be able to use the Trust and accrued interest to:

  • pursue higher education or vocational training in Rhode Island,
  • purchase a home in Rhode Island,
  • start a business with a principal place of business in Rhode Island, or
  • purchase a vehicle in Rhode Island.

Assuming a conservative rate of return, each child would receive around $12,000 to $15,000 under the Program that would be spent in Rhode Island and generate new economic activity.

“Baby Bonds would serve as an instrument that facilitates children that are born without affluence to be able to purchase an asset generating entity like a home, an education without debt, and seed capital to purchase a business," said Dr. Darrick. Hamilton, the Henry Cohen Cohen Professor of Economics and Urban Policy at The New School. 

“Basically, Baby Bonds not only benefit the individuals, but it's a moral, just way of stimulus and investment in Rhode Island. It benefits those who are at the lower end of the spectrum, but [also] promotes economic activity and develops neighborhoods. It has automatic stabilizing aspects. If we think about Millennials, they were born into a great recession, a pandemic recession, [through], no fault of their own. They're facing economic challenges that other generations did not face. Indeed, they have lower home ownership rates compared to every other generation dating as far back as the greatest generation that came out of the Great Depression.

"So the state would build automatic stabilizers across generations [and] neighborhoods, and would also redress the racial wealth gap. We know that there is an overrepresentation of communities of color at the lower end of the economic distribution, so by progressively seeding these accounts, you offer them access to build wealth in a way that frankly, our nation has not afforded certain groups and individuals."

”Baby Bonds is a program for seeding the future," said Treasurer Diossa. "Yes, we won't see the benefits this year, three years, or five years out. This is 18 years out. But for any child who's born, qualifies for Medicaid, and lives below that poverty line, having $15,000 to do whatever they want - I think it's important. We also would like to create some wraparound services so that we can start educating the kids as they start approaching that 18-year mark so that they can better invest their money and know what to do with it.”

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