Assembly approves extension to unemployment benefits


STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly gave its approval today to legislation to extend changes to unemployment regulations to put Rhode Islanders back to work. The legislation is sponsored by House Small Business Committee Chairwoman Carol Hagan McEntee and the late Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin.

The bill (2023-H 5989A, 2023-S 0716aa) extends the sunset on legislation enacted two years ago to increase the wages people can earn before having their benefits reduced. Rhode Islanders are able to earn up to half of their benefit amount before having any earnings subtracted from their unemployment benefits. Before the changes, the threshold was 20 percent, so someone with a $300 weekly benefit starts having their wages subtracted from it once they earn $60 a week. Under the changes, that person can earn up to $150 without having any impact on their benefits.

The legislation, which now goes to the governor for consideration, will help businesses recover by incentivizing part-time workers to take additional shifts and work more hours, because they can still keep some of their unemployment benefit.

“I introduced this bill because our small businesses are still struggling with a severe labor shortage.  The changes to the unemployment system proved to be very beneficial to our small businesses and their employees and with labor shortages still posing challenges in the state, it makes sense to extend this program that keeps our small businesses open and our employees working,” said Chairwoman McEntee (D-Dist. 32, South Kingstown, Narragansett).

When she introduced similar legislation last session, Whip Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) said, “We enacted these changes to get Rhode Islanders back to work, and it had a positive effect at encouraging them to pick up more hours. Given the labor shortage we are experiencing in our state and nationwide, it makes sense … and (will) encourage Rhode Islanders who perhaps can’t yet transition to full-time work more hours. This will put more money in Rhode Islanders’ pockets, support families and help many small businesses that rely on part-time employees to keep their doors open.”

The legislation passed today extends the changes to June 30, 2025.