Rhode Island Works Program

(Replaced the Family Independence Program in July 2008)

The RI Works Program provides cash assistance to families with children up to age 18 and work readiness services for enrolled parents. The maximum benefit is the amount listed in the chart below and depends on family size and living arrangement. A family receives the difference between countable income (income after RI Works deductions to earned income are applied) and the benefit amount.  

Families eligible for RI Works also receive SNAP benefits, health insurance (through the RIte Care program), child care assistance necessary for the parent to participate in work-readiness activities or employment and transportation assistance.

Time limits are applied to the receipt of RI Works cash benefits.  Parents and caretaker relatives can receive RI Works cash benefits for 24 months (whether or not consecutive) in any 60 month period with a lifetime total of 48 months. Children are subject to the same time limits as their parents, except children who live with a parent who receives SSI benefits or who lives with a caretaker relative (who is not in the payment) can receive assistance until he/she turns 18. 

Families may be eligible for a "hardship extension" to either the 24 month or 48 month time limit. Hardship extensions are based on the parent’s inability to work due to disability of the parent, need to care for a disabled family member in the home, homelessness, domestic violence or high unemployment in the state. An initial hardship extension is granted for 6 months. Two additional extensions of 3 months each can be granted. The hardship extension is available to recipients to prevent loss of benefits, as well as to applicants who have exceeded the 24 or 48 month time limit.

Parents are required to enter into an employment plan or a rehabilitation plan (for parents with disabilities) as a condition of their family’s eligibility for RI Works cash benefits. Most parents are required to participate in job search as the first activity in the employment plan. Parents with limited literacy/English language skills are referred to an intensive 6-month program designed to help them gain the skills to find entry level employment, instead of job search. In addition, parents may be referred to short term skills training if appropriate to help the parent enter employment.  To see a list of approved programs where a caseworker may refer parents to satisfy their employment plan requirements, see The Red Book, the resource manual used by DHS workers.

Parents must cooperate with the Office of Child Support Services in pursuing a support order against the non-custodial parent.  The parent can request a waiver from cooperation based on domestic violence and will be referred to the Family Violence Option Advocacy Program for safety planning and to prove eligibility for the waiver. See more information in English (PDF, 604KB) or Spanish (PDF, 612KB). 

Who Qualifies?

  • Families with children under the age of 18 (or 18 and in school if student will graduate before age 19).
  • Families include children living with parent(s) or with caretaker relatives (grandparents, aunts, uncles, adult siblings…).
  • Pregnant women in their 6th month of pregnancy.
  • Pregnant and parenting teenagers (under age 18) must live with parent/relative or in a supervised setting.
  • Must be a citizen or eligible legal immigrant: Eligible immigrants include: Refugees and persons granted asylum.  Lawful permanent residents (LPR) who entered the U.S. before 8/22/96 or if entered on/after 8/22/96 must be in status for five years or more.  Immigrants who are sponsored into the U.S. may have some of their sponsor’s income and resources counted.  For more information about immigrant eligible see “Immigrant Eligibility for Government Benefits.”

Income and Resource Limits

The income limits for families of different sizes are listed in the table below. Earned and unearned income are counted against the income limit.  Unearned income is counted dollar for dollar. Deductions are applied to earned income, so that families with limited earnings may qualify for a supplemental payment from RI Works.

The resource limit is $1,000. The home in which the family lives and one car per adult household member is not counted (to maximum of two).

How to Apply

Apply at the local DHS office, (401) 462-5300

The first step is a meeting with a DHS social worker to be screened for eligibility.  (The application for RI Works is also an application for SNAP and RIte Care for eligible family members.) Application forms and instructions are provided at this screening. The social worker schedules appointments for the applicant with an eligibility worker for an intake appointment and a social caseworker for development of the employment plan.

The intake appointment must be within 5 working days of the screening appointment.  In an emergency situation (the family has no income/resources and in the month of application has not/will not have income/resources in excess of the RI Works limits) the intake appointment is scheduled the next day.  A decision on the application must be made within 30 days of the screening appointment and the family is notified in writing of the decision.

Families are recertified for RI Works every 6 months.  The parent is notified of an appointment with the eligibility worker by mail.  Parents may also need to meet more frequently with the social caseworker to modify their employment plan.  

Applicants denied RI Works and recipients who are notified that benefits will be reduced or terminated can request a hearing within 30 days of the date on the notice.  If a hearing is requested within 10 days of the notice of benefit termination or reduction benefits can continue until a hearing decision is reached.  If the parent loses the hearing, benefits must be repaid.

RI Legal Services (1-800-662-5034) may provide assistance to families who are denied benefits, receive notice of termination or have other problems with RI Works.

Income Guidelines,  RI Works 2011 

Family Size Income Limit/Maximum Monthly Payment Amount Income Limit if Living in Subsidized/Public Housing
1 $327 $277
2 $449 $399
3 $554 $504
4 $634 $584
5 $714 $664
6 $794 $744
7 $874 $824
8 $954 $907