Murray, Handy hail benefits increases for RI Works recipients in budget bill
Provisions include elements of legislation they introduced
STATE HOUSE – Sen. Melissa A. Murray and Rep. Arthur Handy, the sponsors of legislation to raise benefits to Rhode Island Works recipients, are pleased with the increases made to the program in the state budget bill currently pending before the General Assembly.
RI Works is the state’s cash assistance and work-readiness program for low-income children and their families.
The 2023 budget bill (2022-H 7123Aaa) increases RI Works benefits by raising the monthly income disregards from the first $170 of income to the first $300, raising the resource limit of participants from $1,000 to $5,000 per family, increasing the lifetime limit from 48 months to 60 months and allowing those who have completed their first year at Community College of Rhode Island as part of their work plan to complete the second year as well.
The increases are similar to elements of the legislation (2022-S 2316A, 2022-H 7789) Senator Murray (D-Dist. 24, Woonsocket, North Smithfield) and Representative Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston) introduced earlier this session. The Senate passed the legislation yesterday, amending it to make it reflect the provisions included in the budget bill.
“I’m pleased that the budget include the extension of lifetime limits from 48 to 60 months. Rhode Island is one of only 11 states whose limits do not match the federally allowed limit of 60 months. These changes to RI Works are needed in order to fulfill its purpose of being a safety net that helps families in crisis escape poverty, We are grateful for the progress included in this budget, which will better enable parents to cover their costs, and we will continue to advocate for this critical program, because no child in our state should be raised in poverty,” said Senator Murray.
Said Representative Handy, “We are happy to see these practical updates to make RI Works more effective at giving parents the support they need to get on their feet, particularly allowing them to complete the second year at CCRI. That degree makes a real difference in their ability to support their family for the rest of their lives, so of course enabling them to complete it should be an objective for this program.”
Representative Handy and Senator Murray also championed increases to RI Works benefits last year, and elements of their proposal – including a 30-percent increase to the cash benefit, the first such raise in 30 years – were included in the 2022 budget.
The Senate yesterday also approved separate legislation sponsored by Senator Murray (2022-S 2847) which exempts child tax credits — such as the $250-per-child credit that was also included in the budget bill — from being counted as income for RI Works participants. Similar language has been included in the budget bill as well. The change is necessary to ensure that these families receive the benefits of these additional dollars. Companion legislation (2022-H 7641) is sponsored in the House by Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence).