Rhode Island Unemployment Benefits and Eligibility

In this article...
  • To receive Rhode Island unemployment benefits, you must meet monetary and non-monetary eligibility criteria. Learn how to apply and how much you could receive.

Rhode Island unemployment benefits provide financial assistance to people who are out of work. The State of Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training manages unemployment insurance provision and provides re-employment services to help claimants find new jobs. This article outlines the eligibility criteria for unemployment benefits in Rhode Island. 

Who Is Eligible for Unemployment Benefits in Rhode Island?

Workers on payroll are generally entitled to receive Rhode Island unemployment benefits if they satisfy the other eligibility criteria. Typically, this requirement covers non-profit organizations and public sector employees, providing their employers make payroll tax payments. However, you might not be eligible if you work for a non-covered employer (one that doesn't contribute payroll taxes), although some companies choose to pay unemployment benefits directly instead of through the state. 

Working for a covered employer isn't enough to guarantee access to benefits if you lose your job. Below, you can learn about the other eligibility criteria for claiming unemployment benefits in Rhode Island. 

Base Period Wages

The DLT looks at your earnings over the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters to decide if you're eligible for benefits. This period is called the base period. If you didn't earn enough, the department might consider your income over an alternate base period, which is the last four completed calendar quarters. 

The monetary eligibility criteria are the same, regardless of which base period you use. Generally, you must show base period earnings of at least $14,700 to qualify. However, you may still be eligible if you earned less but meet all of the following criteria:

  • Earnings of at least $2,450 in at least one quarter during the base period
  • Your base period earnings equal or exceed $4,900
  • You earned at least 1.5 times your highest-paid quarter wages

Non-Monetary Eligibility

You can't usually claim Rhode Island unemployment benefits if you're working full-time, even if you lose an additional part-time job. However, you may be entitled to benefits if you lose your job or your employer reduces your hours from full-time to part-time. Workers on reduced hours must earn less than their weekly benefit amount (WBA) to receive partial benefits. 

The state will only approve your benefits application if you are unemployed for reasons outside your control. Therefore, the DLT may deny benefits if you were fired for performance-related reasons or quit your job without compelling cause. 

Work Search Requirement

You must be available and able to accept work while receiving Rhode Island unemployment benefits. Furthermore, you must do everything possible to secure a new role. You should search for full-time work, even if you're already working part-time.

Unlike many other states, Rhode Island does not require claimants to submit a work search log with their weekly claim. However, you should still keep detailed records of your re-employment activities. The DLT regularly audits unemployment benefits accounts and requests work search records. You may need to pay back some of your benefits if you can't produce a verifiable account of your work search. 

The DLT requires claimants to complete three re-employment activities each week. Valid re-employment activities are applying for a job, attending an interview or attending a career event. You should only apply for jobs for which you have the necessary qualifications and experience. 

The DLT may waive the work search requirement if you:

  • Are enrolled in WorkShare
  • Have union membership and are in good standing with your hiring hall
  • Are enrolled in DTL-approved training or education
  • Have a scheduled return-to-work date within 12 weeks of losing your job

You must accept any genuine job offer that fits your current occupation, offers a manageable commute and doesn't endanger your health or well-being. Turning down a job offer without a compelling reason could result in losing your benefits entitlement.

How Do You Apply for Rhode Island Unemployment Benefits?

You can file your initial claim for Rhode Island unemployment benefits online through the DLT website portal. The department recommends applying online as the quickest and easiest way to file. However, you can also file over the phone at (401) 415-6772 during regular business hours. Workers enrolled in the WorkShare program should call (401) 462-8418 to submit their applications.

You'll need to supply information about your work history, reasons for unemployment and income when you file your claim. Ensure you have your Social Security number (or Alien Registration number for non-U.S. citizens) and your driver's license or State ID. You should also report the Social Security numbers of any dependents you wish to claim for. 

If the DLT approves your claim, you should set up a UI Online account. You'll need to log into your UI account each week to file your weekly claim and request payment. Alternatively, you can certify and request payments by phone at (401) 415-6772. 

How Much Do You Get From Rhode Island Unemployment Benefits?

The DLT uses your earnings from the two base period quarters when you earned the most to determine your WBA. Your weekly benefit amount will equal 3.85% of your total wages over these quarters. The minimum WBA amount is $62, and the maximum is $661.

You can also claim a dependency allowance worth 5% of your WBA for children younger than 18. The DLT may consider granting an allowance for dependent children aged 18 or older if they have a disability. The minimum dependency allowance is $15 per child per week, and you can claim for up to five dependents. 

You can receive Rhode Island unemployment benefits for a maximum of 26 weeks, but some people won't qualify for the entire period. The DLT determines your maximum claim length by dividing 33% of your total base period wages by your WBA.

You'll usually receive your benefits within 48 hours of requesting payment. You can choose between direct deposits into your nominated account or receiving your benefits on an Electronic Payment Card (EPC.) An EPC functions like a regular debit card. Claimants can change their preferred payment method through the DLT portal

What Happens if Unemployment Benefits in Rhode Islands Are Denied?

The DLT will send you a determination letter explaining whether you're entitled to benefits and why. If it denies your benefits application, you have the right to appeal within 15 days. You can file an appeal online through the DLT's appeal portal or by fax at (401) 462-8318. Alternatively, mail a written appeal to:

Central Adjudication Unit
PO Box 20067
Cranston, RI 02920-0941

The Central Adjudication Unit (CAU) will then invite you to attend a fact-finding telephone interview to assess the merit of your appeal. Filling in a fact-finding questionnaire before your interview can help you prepare and make the process run more smoothly. Continue filing your weekly claims online or by phone while waiting for the appeal outcome. 

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