Excerpt from The End of the Beginning, Rhode Island Monthly, August 2020 Issue
by Ellen Liberman
As generous as the State's corporations and individuals have been, their contributions cannot replace the deep erosion of govement benefits to needy families and individuals. For example, the current unemployment insurance benefits system, designed in the wake of the Great Depression, does not address the realities of the gig economy. (Under the federal CARES Act, passed in the midst of the crisis, self-employed workers whose income has been affected can collect unemployment) Rhode Island's Temporary Assistance to Needy Families has one of the most restrictive time limits in the country; the cash payments have been frozen for thirty years.
"One of the things COVID has shown is that we should be taking care of all of our residents because everyone is affected by this virus. The people we are now calling essential, one in five of them earns less than 200 percent of poverty level." says the Economic Progress Institute's Executive Director Rachel Flum. Higher taxes on the wealthy may return to the table, she says, as "people realize we need a serious conversation about how to afford the goods and services we all need."