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Updated: 2017-03-29T13:17:07Z

 



Yellen says pockets of 'persistently high' unemployment remainJANET YELLEN, chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve, said challenges remain in the U.S. labor market, including concentrations of elevated joblessness in poor and minority communities.

2017-03-29T12:29:39-04:00

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said challenges remain in the U.S. labor market, including concentrations of elevated joblessness in poor and minority communities, as she pushed for better education and training so the economy works for all Americans.

WASHINGTON - Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said challenges remain in the U.S. labor market, including concentrations of elevated joblessness in poor and minority communities, as she pushed for better education and training so the economy works for all Americans.

"While the economy overall is recovering and the job market has improved substantially since the recession, pockets of persistently high unemployment, as well as other challenges, remain," she said in the text of a speech Tuesday in Washington.

U.S. central bankers are gradually removing monetary stimulus as inflation moves back up to their 2 percent target. At 4.7 percent in February, the nation's unemployment rate is at their estimate of maximum use of labor resources.

Yellen didn't discuss monetary policy in the text of her remarks to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. She mentioned several educational and workforce development programs that could help narrow disparities in minority communities, such as campus-based childcare programs, apprenticeships and technical education.

The unemployment rate for African-Americans stood at 8.1 percent in February, about half of its peak rate of 16.8 percent in March 2010 following the financial crisis and recession. The unemployment rate for Hispanics is 5.6 percent, compared with a post-recession peak of 13 percent in August 2009.

"Significant job market changes in recent years, brought about by global competition and technological advances -- and the new and shifting skills that these changes demand -- make workforce development more important than ever before," Yellen said. "Fortunately, programs such as the ones I have highlighted today can help address these challenges in more targeted ways than the Federal Reserve is equipped to do through monetary policy."


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Women & Infants Hospital receives $11M for women's reproductive health researchWOMEN & Infants Hospital will receive $11 million in funding over five years through the National Institutes of Health Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence grant program to boost interdisciplinary research related to women's reproductive health.

2017-03-29T12:29:18-04:00

Women & Infants Hospital will receive $11 million in funding over five years through the National Institutes of Health Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence grant program to boost research related to women's reproductive health.

PROVIDENCE - Women & Infants Hospital will receive $11 million in funding over five years through the National Institutes of Health Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence grant program to boost research related to women's reproductive health.

The funding announcement was made Wednesday by U.S. Sens. Jack F. Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and U.S. Reps. James R. Langevin and David N. Cicilline.

Women & Infants will integrate research of investigators working in pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, and establish a collaborative research environment to study women's health conditions.

Dr. Surendra Sharma, professor of pediatrics at Women & Infants, will serve as principal investigator for the COBRE for Reproductive Health. Much of the research will focus on long-term impacts that pregnancy complications may have on a woman's health and how complications suffered by a woman during pregnancy can "offer a window into other future adverse health outcomes," according to a release about the funding award.

"This federal funding will provide researchers with the necessary resources to take on high-priority research objectives that will have lasting effects on women's health care in Rhode Island and around the world," Reed said in a statement.

Mark R. Marcantano, president and chief operating officer, Women & Infants Hospital, said the grant represents a "significant opportunity" for the hospital to continue its research and keep it on the radar as a premier research institution worldwide.

"This investment in research is so important because it enables us to continue to recruit and retain the best and the brightest, and to demonstrate that the most advanced techniques and research are born and reside right here at Women & Infants Hospital," Marcantano said.

Women & Infants, a Care New England hospital, is the ninth largest stand-alone obstetrical service in the country and the largest in New England, with approximately 8,500 deliveries per year.


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Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island partners with other entities to support residents who want to live independentlyNEIGHBORHOOD HEALTH PLAN of Rhode Island is partnering with three different organizations to help its insured members who are elderly or disabled live independently and in their own homes.

2017-03-29T12:29:03-04:00

Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island said Wednesday that it is partnering with three different organizations to empower its insured members who are elderly or disabled to live independently and in their own homes.

PROVIDENCE - Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island said Wednesday that it is partnering with three different organizations to empower its insured members who are elderly or disabled to live independently and in their own homes.

One partnership is designed to help NHPRI's members residing in long-term care facilities avoid needless hospitalizations and emergency department visits.

"This trio of partnerships reflects [NHPRI's] commitment to partnering with the state to rebalance long-term services and supports," Alison Croke, NHPRI vice president for Medicare/Medicaid integration, said in the NHPRI statement. "Our investments in programs like those run by The Providence Village of Rhode Island and Catholic Social Services make it easier for people to live independently with the necessary supports. Of course, there are times when a nursing home is the most appropriate place to live. In those instances, our case managers, in partnership with Optum, will work with each member, one-on-one, to keep them mentally and physically well."

The first partnership is with The Providence Village of Rhode Island, a community-based model connecting Providence senior citizens to one another and a variety of community services to help them age in place. The Providence Village's small paid staff and volunteers connect seniors to services like transportation and assistance with home maintenance, thereby allowing them to live independently. NHPRI will support The Providence Village's ongoing efforts to expand its volunteer network and train new volunteers to reach more seniors.

Recognizing that caregiver supports are essential to keeping people in the community and engaged with support systems, NHPRI, a nonprofit insurance company, is partnering with Catholic Social Services to expand respite programs to those who care for senior citizens and adults with disabilities. By training and recruiting volunteers and educating caregivers about available resources, Catholic Charities and NHPRI will enhance coordination of respite care and other caregiver support services and will increase the capacity for respite care throughout the state.

The third new partnership, a Nurse Practitioner Rounding Program coordinated with Optum, a national health services company, will benefit NHPRI members now living in nursing homes. Optum's local employees will work one-on-one with those nursing home residents to provide preventive care with the goal of reducing unnecessary hospitalizations and emergency department visits.

These ongoing efforts complement NHPRI's continued work in support of the state's two-phase Integrated Care Initiative, which began in November 2013, that targets people dually-eligible for Medicare and Medicaid benefits. Phase I of the Integrated Care Initiative addressed Medicaid benefits for NHPRI members. Phase II, which also required a partnership with the federal government, covers NHPRI members' Medicaid and Medicare benefits.

"We recognize that health care is personal. When one of [NHPRI's] members makes the choice between living independently or living in a skilled nursing facility, we are there to support them," NHPRI President and CEO Peter Marino said in the statement. "[NHPRI] is dedicated to developing and supporting an enhanced long-term care continuum in Rhode Island that protects our state's most vulnerable citizens, at a price taxpayers can afford."


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Lost pens no more, A.T. Cross introduces trackable penA.T. CROSS wants to make lost pens a thing of the past with its new CROSS Peerless TrackR trackable pen.

2017-03-29T12:29:41-04:00

A.T. Cross wants to make lost pens a thing of the past.

PROVIDENCE - A.T. Cross wants to make lost pens a thing of the past.

"We understand that for many people, the barrier to purchasing a fine writing pen is a fear of losing it," Bob Baird, CEO at A.T. Cross said in a statement. "Beautifully designed and luxurious writing instruments have become a highly personal and important style accessory for many, and we developed the Peerless TrackR to answer this clear consumer need. We believe this will be one of our most successful launches to date."

The pen maker said it has entered into a new partnership with TrackR, a Santa Barbara, Calif., firm that specializes in tracking items, to launch a trackable pen, the CROSS Peerless TrackR.

The CROSS Peerless TrackR works when paired with an app. It then uses Bluetooth and Crowd Locate technology to keep people in touch with their pen.

For example, if the pen falls out of someone's pocket, or is left inside a meeting room or restaurant, the device can alert the owner to its last known location using the TrackR app.

When the pen's Bluetooth connection is disconnected from its paired mobile phone, TrackR's Crowd Locate community will automatically start searching for the pen. If a TrackR app user walks by the missing pen while running the app, a confidential update with the pen's last known location will be sent. TrackR users help each other find more than a million items every day worldwide.

The pen also can even help people find their misplaced mobile phones. Following a simple button press on the cap, the pen can alert people to their device's whereabouts, even when left in silent mode.

Available in both carbon black and quartz blue, the Peerless TrackR is powered by two replaceable CR1220 batteries.

CROSS has also unveiled an accompanying pen pouch that features a TrackR bravo device. The TrackR bravo can ring a phone just like the Peerless TrackR.

"We're ecstatic to continue expanding our works with TrackR program by partnering with well-known brands worldwide such as Cross," Chris Herbert, CEO and co-founder, TrackR, said in a statement. "The new Peerless TrackR Pen is another leap forward in effortless tracking, giving people peace of mind by relying on technology to remember where all our important items are located for us."

The CROSS Peerless TrackR will be available for $250 and the CROSS Pouch will be available for $30 for purchase at Cross.com in April.


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Bankrate.com: R.I. 19th best state to retireRHODE ISLAND is the 19th best state to retire, according to a study released Wednesday by Bankrate.com.

2017-03-29T10:29:22-04:00

Rhode Island is the 19th best state to retire, according to a study released Wednesday by Bankrate.com.

PROVIDENCE - Rhode Island is the 19th best state to retire, according to a study released Wednesday by Bankrate.com.

The Ocean State's low crime rate (ninth lowest in nation) and strength in health care quality (10th best) helped it land in the top half of states that are the best to retire. Its weak areas were in taxes (tied for eighth highest) and cost of living (ninth highest).

Those looking for the best state to retire won't have to travel very far - it's New Hampshire, where well-being ranked second best in the nation, health care quality is fourth best and crime rates are third lowest. Colorado and Maine rounded out the top three. Massachusetts came in seventh best, Vermont, 14th.

Connecticut ranked lowest in New England at 32nd. Alaska ranked lowest on the list at 50th.

Bankrate said it conducted a survey that said 47 percent of Americans would consider relocating when they retire.

"There's absolutely no doubt that warmer climates do attract" seniors, Karen Holden, professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin's La Follette School of Public Affairs, told Bankrate.com.

But other factors come into play beyond weather, as most retirees depend on some kind of fixed income, such as Social Security.

Nari Rhee, director of the Retirement Security Program at the University of California-Berkley's Labor Center, said seniors need to find a place where they can maximize their money.

"They think, the state has low taxes, ergo I can stretch my dollars further," Rhee said in a statement. "But if that also means they're going to be paying more for out-of-pocket costs for their health care or long-term care, then that's going to make a difference."

States are rated on cost of living, health care quality, crime, cultural vitality, weather, taxes, senior citizens' overall well-being and the prevalence of other seniors. Data from the FBI, Gallup Healthways, and the U.S. Census Bureau was used, along with other sources.


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Single-family home sales fall in R.I. in February, but median price risesSINGLE-FAMILY home sales fell nearly 7 percent in February compared with February 2016, the Rhode Island Association of Realtors said Wednesday.

2017-03-28T16:28:56-04:00

Single-family home sales fell 6.9 percent in February compared with February 2016, but the median sale price climbed 6.3 percent during that same timeframe, the Rhode Island Association of Realtors said Wednesday.

WARWICK - Single-family home sales fell 6.9 percent in February compared with February 2016, but the median sale price climbed 6.3 percent during that same timeframe, the Rhode Island Association of Realtors said Wednesday.

Single-family home sales totaled 554 in February, 41 fewer than in February 2016. Nationwide, sales climbed 5.8 percent.

The median sale price of a single-family home in Rhode Island reached $231,000, compared with $217,300 in February 2016. That's $2,000 higher than the national median sales price, the association said.

Providence (excluding East Side sales) had 31 single-family home sales in February, a 20.5 percent decline over the year, but at the same time the median sales price increased 36.7 percent to $149,000. The East Side of Providence saw five single-family home sales, a decline of 16.7 percent over the year, and an 11.1 percent decline in median sale price to $340,000.

Sellers continue to have a "significant advantage," according to the association, which said there was a three-month supply of homes on the market in mid-March. A six-month supply is considered to be a "balanced" market between buyers and sellers.

Rhode Island home sales were affected by declining inventory, as there were nearly 20 percent fewer single-family homes for sale last month compared with a year earlier. Inventory has fallen every month for the past 26 months with the exception of February 2016, the association said.

Condominium sales also decreased over the year, but only slightly, falling to 106 from 107. Condos also saw a 10.5 percent increase in median price, to $210,000 from $190,000. The supply of condos on the market fell 8 percent from the prior year.

"It's basic economics. When there's a good deal of demand, but supply is low, prices go up. That's what we're experiencing in Rhode Island's housing market right now. That's great news for homeowners whose equity is rising, but it's not good for buyers who have limited choices and stiff competition when they do find a home that they like," Brenda Marchwicki, president of the Rhode Island Association of Realtors, said in a statement.

East Greenwich, West Warwick and Charlestown saw the greatest jumps in single-family median sale price in February at 129.6 percent, to $465,000; 107 percent, to $202,000; and 102.7 percent, to $445,900, respectively.

Multifamily property sales increased 4.6 percent over the year to 115 from 110. However, the number of multifamily properties available for sale last month fell 20 percent from the same time last year, and the median sales price climbed 9 percent, to $180,000 from $165,000.

Marchwicki said multifamily property sales are being boosted by investors looking to enter the strong rental market.

"One of the downsides of this is that investors are typically in a better financial position than first-time buyers to purchase these properties. That leaves the entry level market with even less options. It's really important today that buyers bring their A game ... be prequalified, know their budget and be ready to move on a property if an opportunity presents itself," she said.


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DOR: Cash collections show mixed results in FebruaryTHE R.I. DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE said general revenue cash collections rose 1 percent in the fiscal year to date ending in February compared with the same fiscal period a year earlier.

2017-03-28T14:28:40-04:00

Total general revenue cash collections rose 1 percent when comparing the fiscal year-over-fiscal year period through February, but fell 7.1 percent when comparing February with February 2016, the R.I. Department of Revenue said Tuesday.

PROVIDENCE - Total general revenue cash collections rose 1 percent when comparing the fiscal year-over-fiscal year period through February, but fell 7.1 percent when comparing February with February 2016, the R.I. Department of Revenue said Tuesday.

Cash collections rose to $2.21 billion in the first eight months of the fiscal year, compared with cash collections of $2.19 billion in the previous fiscal period. In the predecessor fiscal period, the growth rate was 2.3 percent, however.

Departmental receipts had the greatest gain over the fiscal period at 6.7 percent to $282.7 million, while both lottery transfer and all other revenue declined 3.3 percent, to $207.1 million and $240 million, respectively.

Personal income tax grew 1.8 percent over the fiscal year to $804.8 million, while sales and use tax rose 1.9 percent over the same period to $677.4 million.

For the month of February alone, cash collections dipped to $160.6 million, with all other revenue reporting the largest decline at 34.6 percent, to $22.8 million. The DOR said million-dollar decreases in motor vehicle license and registration fees, cigarettes excise taxes, insurance companies' gross premiums taxes, departmental receipts and public utilities gross earnings taxes drove this shortfall.

The next-largest decline was in lottery transfer at 15 percent, to $28.5 million, and departmental receipts with a 13 percent decrease to $14.2 million.

Declines in traditional lottery games and the video lottery terminals at Twin River were the main causes of the lottery decrease, the state agency said.

Personal income tax had the greatest increase over the year at 16.6 percent, to $32.1 million, while sales and use tax rose 2.9 percent to $69.1 million.


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Chessawanock Island Oysters to expand, thanks to SEED business loan CHESSAWANOCK ISLAND Oysters on Station Street in Cranston recently received $75,000 in financing from the South Eastern Economic Development Corp. using R.I. Commerce Corp. funds and an SBA Micro Loan that will allow it to expand from three to five acres in Narragansett Bay, buy additional farming equipment, and create four more jobs.

2017-03-28T13:28:56-04:00

Chessawanock Island Oysters on Station Street recently received $75,000 in financing from the South Eastern Economic Development Corp. using R.I. Commerce Corp. funds and a Small Business Association Micro Loan that will allow it to expand from three to five acres in Narragansett Bay, buy additional farming equipment, and create four more jobs.

CRANSTON - Chessawanock Island Oysters on Station Street recently received $75,000 in financing from the South Eastern Economic Development Corp. using R.I. Commerce Corp. funds and a Small Business Association Micro Loan that will allow it to expand from three to five acres in Narragansett Bay, buy additional farming equipment, and create four more jobs.

"We are pleased that Chessawanock Island Oysters is receiving this loan from our small business assistance program," Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor said in a statement. "The Rhode Island aquaculture and shellfishing industries are vital components of our state's economy. These modest investments in small businesses are an important part of our economic development strategy."

According to a Commerce RI spokesman, $37,500 was provided by Commerce RI.

Chessawanock, established in 2012 by owner Kyle Hess, cultivates oysters to sell to local wholesalers who distribute them in and out of state.

The in-water nursery grows seed to a healthy planting size before transferring oysters to floating OysterGro Cages, where they are tended by hand. The company uses only native species approved by the National Shellfish Sanitation Program.

"As a nonprofit community lender, SEED will be able to make loans up to $250,000 with the RI Commerce funds," Maria Gooch-Smith, SEED's executive director, said.

She said loans can be made for real estate purchases or improvements for the business along with uses including working capital and refinancing of high-interest rate business credit cards. Rates range from 5-6 percent fixed and the term on the loans can go up 10 years with longer amortization.

Under various programs, SEED, a nonprofit economic development organization, makes loans from $1,000 up to $5.5 million to help small businesses grow and create jobs throughout the region.

Under the SBA 504 Program, SEED can provide up to 40 percent of the financing needed behind a bank for the purchase of buildings and equipment with a life of 10 years. SEED's portion can range from $120,000 to $5 million for most small businesses, and $5.5 million for manufacturing businesses, at a fixed interest rate below market for 20 years, currently 4.89 percent.

For information about the SBA 504 Program and other SEED loan programs, call (508) 822-1020 or visit SEED at seedcorp.com.


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URI, South County Health sign MOU to improve community health, education for health care workers

2017-03-28T12:28:54-04:00

Formalizing a previous relationship between South County Health and the University of Rhode Island, the Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds initiative, the two entities have signed a memorandum of understanding designed to enhance education for health professionals and to advance local communities' well-being, according to a statement from URI on Tuesday.

SOUTH KINGSTOWN - Formalizing a previous relationship between South County Health and the University of Rhode Island, the Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds initiative, the two entities have signed a memorandum of understanding designed to enhance education for health professionals and to advance local communities' well-being, according to a statement from URI on Tuesday.

"The university's academically robust programs related to health and health care make it a uniquely qualified partner for South County Health as we work to advance our common goals of educating highly skilled health care professionals and improving the health of the communities where we live and work," Bryan Blissmer, acting director of URI's Institute for Integrated Health and Innovation, said in a statement.

In 2016, URI created the Academic Health Collaborative, which is comprised of the colleges of Health Sciences, Nursing and Pharmacy, to push innovation across disciplines in the rapidly changing landscape of population health and health care. The Institute for Integrated Health and Innovation, which serves as the Health Collaborative's community engagement and research arm, will engage in joint initiatives with South County Health, which includes South County Hospital and three additional community health entities.

URI and South County Health already collaborate on the Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds initiative, which South County Health launched to diminish disparities and improve the overall health of local residents via education, health care and social service. The new MOU formalizes this relationship and offers additional opportunities for collaboration.

The new partnership is designed to:

Design and implement student experiences that advance the education of health professionals while providing service to the community;

Seek funding for innovative community health programs that build on collaboration among URI, South County Health and community partners;

Enhance educational opportunities for South County Health employees who seek to build additional skills and knowledge in their professions;

Identify and pursue clinical research opportunities that engage South County Health patients and the expertise of URI faculty.




R.I. business community expresses optimism at economic outlook breakfastMICHAEL A. Lee, executive vice president of commercial real estate at Santander U.S., addresses a crowd of approximately 400 members of the business community at the bank's annual economic outlook breakfast at the Omni Providence Hotel on Tuesday.

2017-03-28T16:28:43-04:00

(Updated 4:38 p.m.) The Rhode Island business community is brimming with optimism as it relates to the future of the state's economy, according to a real-time survey conducted at the Santander Bank and Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce annual economic outlook breakfast on Tuesday. (Updated 4:38 p.m.) PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island business community is brimming with optimism as it relates to the future of the state's economy, according to a real-time survey conducted at the Santander Bank and Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce annual economic outlook breakfast on Tuesday. The business event, held each year for 16 years at the Omni Providence Hotel, included a survey of about 400 attendees comprising members of the business, nonprofit, political and higher education communities. Initial results show 82 percent of respondents believe Rhode Island's economy over the next 12 months will be in better shape than it is now, representing a 29-percentage point improvement compared with last year's survey. "I run several national businesses for our company, and I have the opportunity to visit many states and cities," said Michael A. Lee, executive vice president and managing director of commercial real estate for Santander in the United States. "I'll admit to being biased as a lifelong resident of Rhode Island ... but I think there are boundless opportunities here in the state." The annual meeting is held to discuss the state's economy and gauge the business community's economic outlook. Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, who has attended the meeting each year she's been in office, said the state is on a roll. "In some ways we're just beginning, and setting the table for growth," she said. Raimondo talked about how the state is attracting some big-name businesses, including GE Digital, a division of General Electric Co., Johnson & Johnson and Virgin Pulse, saying it helps make other companies take notice of Rhode Island. The governor gave a special shout out to a team from eMoney Advisor, a Pennsylvania-based financial technology company, which was approved for state incentives on Monday, and is slated to open an office in Providence and add 100 jobs by 2020. Despite the optimism, however, the governor is concerned about who will get these new jobs, saying it's imperative they go to Rhode Islanders. Raimondo then took the opportunity to plug her tuition-free college proposal, Rhode Island Promise, which once fully operational would cost $30 million each year to pay for two years of college tuition for qualifying in-state students attending public institutions. "We need to make sure Rhode Islanders get these jobs," she said. "The only way we get that to happen is if we make sure Rhode Islanders have the skills to get the jobs they need. ... We have to make college more affordable." The real-time, unscientific survey was administered after consecutive speeches, including Raimondo's, that were filled with optimism. The build-up could have had some influence on responses, but comparing the results year over year does give a window into how sentiment has changed among the business community. The optimism about the Rhode Island economy exceeded respondent sentiment related to individual businesses, as 68 percent of participants said their businesses would be in better shape over the next 12 months, representing a 1 percentage point decline compared with the prior year. About 56 respondents said they plan to hire new employees over the next 12 months, representing a 1 percentage point decline compared with last year. About 60 percent of respondents said they believe the United States economy would be in better shape over the next 12 months, compared with 63 percent last year, which somewhat contradicts the near two-thirds of respondents who said they thought the country was he[...]


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