Bill allowing people to collect unemployment while working part-time passes RI Senate

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A new piece of legislation will be a win-win for both people receiving unemployment benefits and businesses looking to hire, according to the lawmaker behind the measure.

By a 32-to-1 vote, the Rhode Island Senate passed a House bill on Tuesday that would update the Rhode Island unemployment insurance (UI) benefits program.

“We’re trying to use this as an incentive to get everybody back to work,” said Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee, chairwoman of the RI House Small Business Committee.

Hagan McEntee said she’s been hearing from employers who are struggling to find workers.

“One of the things I’m hearing from the business community is they’re making too much money at home,” she said.

The bill would allow people to work part-time and still collect the extra $300 in benefits from the federal government, according to Hagan McEntee.

“You can work 150% of your base benefit rate and still get the $300 boost,” she explained.

In addition, the legislation seeks to allow someone to earn more money working before their UI benefits are reduced.

“We increased the rate you could earn without getting a deduction from your base benefit rate to 50%,” she said.

According to a spokesperson for the R.I. Department of Labor and Training (DLT), roughly 69,000 people in the state are currently receiving UI benefits.

In a statement to 12 News, DLT Director Matt Weldon said “it will help Rhode Island businesses find the talent they need to have a successful summer season.”

“We need our businesses to fully reopen so we can recover from the devastating year we’ve had in this pandemic,” Hagan McEntee added.

The change is scheduled to take effect Sunday, the same day the DLT will re-instate the job search requirement for people collecting unemployment. That rule had been waived during the pandemic.

The House is expected to pass the bill Wednesday, and Hagan McEntee said she expects Gov. Dan McKee to sign it into law on Friday. He has already expressed support for the changes to UI benefits.

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