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5/12/2021 Chairwoman McEntee’s bill that changes unemployment to expand workforce passes the House
STATE HOUSE – Chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee Carol Hagan McEntee’s (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett) legislation (2021-H 6249A) that changes unemployment regulations with the intent of putting Rhode Islanders back to work while still allowing them to take advantage of federal support passed the House of Representatives tonight.

“I introduced this bill because the restaurant, hospitality and many other small businesses in my district told me that after the devastating year they have had with the pandemic, now that they are allowed to be open and serve patrons, too many of them simply cannot find enough workers due to the amount of money being made on unemployment.  Without enough workers, these businesses have been forced to cut hours of service and in turn, it is keeping them from making the money that they need in order for their businesses to stay open and survive,” said Chairwoman McEntee.

The bill is intended to ensure an incentivized workforce that can help Rhode Island’s economic recovery while also using available federal funding to help Rhode Islanders support themselves and stimulate the economy.

The legislation would allow those receiving unemployment benefits to go to work and earn up to 150% of their unemployment insurance benefit amount – not including any federal boosts – before being cut off from unemployment. Currently, people lose unemployment once they earn more in wages than their state benefit. This is important because when people are ineligible to receive an unemployment payment, they are also cut off from the extra $300 per week federal boost. As long as they receive even a portion of their unemployment benefit, they also get the federal $300 boost.

Under this legislation, for example, someone with a $300 weekly benefit amount could earn up to $449 at work before losing their unemployment.

The bill would also increase the amount people can earn before having their benefits reduced. Rhode Islanders would be able to earn up to half of their benefit amount before having any earnings subtracted from their unemployment benefits. Right now, the threshold is 20%, so someone with a $300 weekly benefit starts having their wages subtracted from it once they earn $60 a week. Under the bill, that person could up to $150 without having any impact on their benefits.

The changes would take effect May 23.

The legislation will help businesses recover by incentivizing workers to take additional shifts and work more hours, because they can still keep some of their unemployment benefit.

“With the passage of this bill, we are signaling to all of our struggling small businesses and workers that help is on the way.  It will protect and support our small businesses while also allowing our workers to get back to their jobs without fear of losing the crucial benefits that have kept themselves and their families afloat during the pandemic.  Rhode Island will become a national leader with a funded solution to a country-wide problem that so many are trying to solve, but more importantly, this bill will allow our small businesses and their workers to financially recover from the devastating year we have all experienced thanks to the pandemic,” concluded Chairwoman McEntee.

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration, which passed the companion legislation (2021-S 0858aa) yesterday sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence).

For more information, contact:
Andrew Caruolo, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903