Improving The Rhode Island Works Program

The Rhode Island Works (RI Works) program is the safety net for children whose parents are unable to support them through work – either temporarily or permanently. The program provides a minimal cash benefit ($554/month for a family of 3) and is the primary “workforce development” door for low-skilled parents.

RI Works has two time limits: a 48 month lifetime limit (shorter than the 60 months allowed by federal law) and a “periodic time limit” which allows a family to receive benefits for up to 24 months in a 5 year period. Most of the parents who reach the 24 month periodic time limit request an extension to continue to receive cash assistance and remain active in services to help them get ready to work, or help with finding a job. Hardship extensions are renewed after 6 months and then 3 months at a time. This puts an extra burden on DHS staff and can cause disruption in payment for the parent as well as disruption in their work-readiness program, if the renewal period ends during their employment plan activity.

Governor Raimondo has introduced a proposed budget for FY2020 that would repeal the 24 month periodic time limit which will improve administrative efficiencies and allow DHS staff and parents to focus on what the RI Works program is really about – providing opportunities to parents who face multiple barriers to employment to gain the skills they need to enter and remain in the workforce.

Additionally, legislation will be introduced in the General Assembly that would:

  • Allow parents to continue their education at CCRI in their second year, without requiring the parent to work in addition to going to school (and raising her family). Under current rules, the parent can participate in a year of vocational education as her sole activity. There are some parents who enroll at CCRI under this provision. However, after the 12 months, the parent must be working (or engaged in ‘other countable activity’) for 20 hours/week in addition to continuing their education which would pose a barrier to that parent finishing their education.
  • Eliminate the requirement that an 18 year old must finish high school before turning 19 to qualify for RI Works. Under federal law, the definition of eligible child is simply under age 18.
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