Policy Agenda - Meeting Basic Needs
Rhode Islanders have a shared responsibility for ensuring that all of our residents especially low-wage workers and those who cannot support themselves through work are able to meet their basic needs.
During the 2013 legislative session lawmakers enacted policy changes that will significantly impact the economic well-being of low- and modest-income Rhode Islanders.
- Child care assistance was expanded so that families can experience upward mobility. Parents receiving a child care subsidy will no longer need to forgo a raise or promotion for fear of losing this vital work support. A pilot program will allow parents to earn more without losing their subsidy until their earnings reach a newly established, higher (exit) income limit. This will help families avoid the “cliff effect” that occurs when they earn a penny over the income limit and the cost of child care skyrockets.
- Adults without children can receive health insurance through Medicaid. Rhode Island chose to adopt an option made available to states under the Affordable Care Act which allows low-income adults without children to be eligible for Medicaid coverage beginning in January 2014. An estimated 40,000 Rhode Islanders with income below $15,800, many working at low wage jobs, will have access to high quality health insurance coverage for the first time.
- Many Rhode Islanders are getting a raise. Policymakers voted to increase the minimum wage for a second year in a row from $7.75 to $8.00 per hour, allowing workers to better keep pace with the rising cost of living. This also makes Rhode Island’s minimum wage more aligned with those in neighboring states.
- Families will no longer need to pay monthly RIte Care premiums for children. Currently some families pay between $61 and $92 a month to insure the parents and/or their children through RIte Care, depending on their income. Approximately 3,000 individuals lose their health insurance every year because they are unable to pay the premium. As of January 2014, the RIte Care premiums for children will be eliminated ensuring that children will have access to quality health care.
- Thousands of parents will lose RIte Care health insurance coverage. Beginning in 2013, the income limits for RIte Care will be rolled back, causing 6,500 parents to lose their coverage. Some funding was made available to help parents purchase commercial health insurance through the new Health Insurance Exchange, but the significantly higher monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs are likely to make this option unaffordable for these low-income families.
- Payday lending reform not enacted. Efforts to reform payday lending and cap interest rates at 36% were unsuccessful for the third consecutive year. Rhode Islanders who fall short of meeting basic needs and access this form of predatory lending will remain vulnerable to falling into an unrelenting debt trap