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Unemployment benefit extension bill signed into law

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(The Center Square) – A bill extending changes to unemployment regulations is now law in Rhode Island.

House Bill 5989A and Senate Bill 716aa were inked by Democratic Gov. Dan McKee on Friday. The bills are designed to get Rhode Island residents back into the workforce.

The bills were sponsored by House Small Business Committee Chairwoman Carol Hagan McEntee, D-Narragansett, and the late Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin, D-Providence.

“I introduced this bill because our small businesses are still struggling with a severe labor shortage,” McEntee said in a statement. “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.”

According to a release, HB5989A and SB716aa feature an extension of sunset on laws enacted two years ago to raise wages people can earn before those unemployment benefits are reduced.

According to a release, the bills extend changes in the unemployment benefit to June 30, 2025.

Under the law, residents can earn half of their benefit amount before earnings are subtracted from unemployment benefits, according to a release. In the past, the threshold for those earnings was 20%. A worker earning a $300 per week benefit would have their wages subtracted once they make $60 weekly.

According to a release, the new law raises the wage threshold to $150 per week.

According to a release, the legislation will aid business owners in recovering as incentives are given to part-time workers who can take more shifts, work more hours, and still keep a portion of unemployment benefits.

Upon introducing the legislation in the last session, Goodwin said the “changes to get Rhode Islanders back to work” would have a “positive effect” on encouraging employees to work more.

“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,” Goodwin said at the time. “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.”

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