PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Islanders have until May 17 to file their taxes and while the federal government created a $10,200 tax break for unemployment insurance, it remains unclear whether the state will follow suit.
Both the Rhode Island House and Senate held hearings this week on bills that would mirror the unemployment tax exemption included in President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan. Both bills have been held for further study.
On Monday, the Senate Finance Committee heard testimony from Deborah Krieg, who said she lost two jobs at the onset of the pandemic and now owes the state of Rhode Island more than $800 in taxes on her unemployment benefits.
“I have lost sleep over this,” she said. “I have tried every which way to find out how I’m going to come up with money to pay this.”
Krieg urged lawmakers to issue the exemption, saying she’s now faced with a tough decision: “Do I pay my rent, or do I pay the state of Rhode Island?”
And she isn’t alone. R.I. Department of Labor and Training (DLT) data shows roughly 108,000 jobs were lost between March and April 2020.
“It has been the working class people in our state who’ve suffered the most from this pandemic,” state Rep. David Morales said during a separate House Finance Committee hearing on Tuesday.
According to Morales, one in four families suffered from food insecurity this past winter. Morales is co-sponsoring the bill with Deputy House Speaker Charlene Lima.
“Sixty-one out of 75 reps showed some support for the legislation,” Lima said.
With the tax deadline fast approaching, Lima said she plans to reach out to House leadership this week in an effort to speed up the process.
“I can’t guarantee it, but I am pushing as hard as I can to get it done as soon as possible,” Lima assured, adding that she’s received several phone calls and emails from people asking about the bill.
As of Thursday afternoon, a spokesperson for the House told 12 News no decision has been made on whether the bill will advance to a final vote.
Over in the Senate, Minority Leader Dennis Algiere is cosponsoring the bill with Senate President Dominick Ruggerio. A spokesperson told 12 News Algiere is working with Senate leadership to bring the bill to the floor.
While both versions of the bill are still up in the air, Gov. Dan McKee has made it clear he thinks the tax exemption would cost the state too much money.