Rhode Island human services director announces resignation

RI Department of Human Services Director Courtney Hawkins, who submitted her resignation, effective May 14, 2021 is seen in a January, 2020 file photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The director of Rhode Island’s Department of Human Services has announced her resignation, effective May 14.

Courtney Hawkins, in a letter to the state’s health and human services secretary, Womazetta Jones, on Thursday, did not give a reason for her resignation, but called her time at the agency “the greatest honor and opportunity of my life,” The Providence Journal reported.

“Together we have stabilized the department’s operations while implementing a number programmatic improvements which have impacted and improved the lives of thousands of vulnerable individuals and families,” she wrote.

The department oversees public assistance programs for families, older residents and veterans including food stamps and Medicaid.

Gov. Daniel McKee at his weekly coronavirus update said he was surprised by the resignation, but thanked for her for her service.

An agency spokesperson said Hawkins plans to remain in Rhode Island, but does not plan to talk further about her next steps.

Hawkins, previously Providence’s human services policy officer, was hired by former Gov. Gina Raimondo in 2017 to try to stabilize the department after the botched rollout of the state’s new public-benefits computer system that left thousands of Rhode Islanders without an array of benefits.