The Rhode Island Senate passed legislation in 2017 to raise the maximum weekly payment to $616. If the bill becomes law, the state would have one of the highest payouts in the nation. Learn how to apply, what it takes to be eligible for benefits and avoid pitfalls when unfortunate circumstances require you to ask for temporary assistance.
Eligibility for Unemployment in RI
To be qualify for unemployment benefits, you must have earned wages during the year prior to filing a claim from an employer covered by the state’s unemployment insurance laws. You must have earned enough wages from that employment to meet the minimum monetary qualifications.
If you meet the monetary qualification, you must also:
- Be unemployed through no fault of your own
- Be able and available to work
- Legally authorized to work in the US
You must register with the state’s job search service. If the state approves your claim, you must maintain this eligibility and keep looking for work as long as you are receiving benefits.
Eligibility Requirements Explained
Lost Your Job Through No Fault of Your Own
If you were laid off, your plant closed or moved away, you may be eligible for benefits. If you quit or your employer let you go because of some rule violation, you may not be eligible.
Able and Available
You must be mentally and physically able to work when you file your claim. You must also be available to accept an offer of suitable employment. “Suitable employment” is work you’re trained to do at a salary similar to what you’ve received in the past.
You must be a US citizen or be able to show proof you’re authorized to work in the US. In rare cases, H1-B visa holders may be eligible if their employer laid them off with a specific return date.
Monetary Eligibility and the Base Period
To meet the monetary eligibility requirement, you must have worked for a covered employer and earned a minimum amount over a 12-month period called the base period. The base period covers the first four of the last five quarters prior to your filing a claim.
The DTL requires that you earn at least $11, 520 during the base period to be eligible. Additionally, you must have:
- You were paid at least $1,920 in one of your base period quarters, and
2. You were paid total base period taxable wages of at least one and one-half times your highest single quarter earnings, and
3. You were paid total base period taxable wages of at least $3,840.
Calculating Your Weekly Benefits
The DTL sets the amount you will receive each week at 3.85% of the average wages from your two highest earning quarters (the 3-month periods where you earned the most).
As of press time, the minimum is $49 and maximum is $566.00, not including dependency allowance. As noted earlier, the legislature sets the max payments. The representatives are currently mulling an increase.
You may claim dependents when you file a claim. This will increase the amount you receive each week (but not your WBA). The dependent will add 5% of your WBA to your payment. You may claim up to five dependents. There is a $15 per week minimum for each dependent.
Be prepared to prove that you are financially responsible for the dependents. You will be asked:
- Number of dependent children under the age of 18; and/or number of children over the age of 18 with disabilities and incapable of earning wages
- Name, relationship, date of birth, age, Social Security number, and disability (if applicable) for each child listed
- Be prepared to answer the following questions regarding your children:
- Do you personally provide for the support of these children?
- Does anyone else contribute to the support of these children? If yes, be prepared to give name, address and SSN of other person.
- Do all of the above children live with you? If no, be prepared to child/children’s address.
- Do you have legal custody and physical possession of all the children listed above? If no, be prepared to give name, address and SSN of other person involved.
- Is your spouse, or any other person claiming these children, on an Unemployment Claim?
Duration of Benefits
At most, you can collect benefits for 26 weeks. The state will set a limit for claimants based on their base period wages. The duration of your benefits will be approximately equal to 33% of your total wages.
During times of high unemployment, the state or federal government will approve additional weeks of benefits. There are no programs currently running.
How to Apply for Benefits
You may apply for benefits online at the DTL website or over the phone with the claims center. Have the following information ready:
- Street address
- Mailing address (if different from street address)
- State of residence, including zip code
- State you worked in most recently (if different)
- Telephone number
- Email address
- Date of birth
- Social Security number
- Driver’s license number or state-issued identification number
You will be asked additional questions about your employment history. The claims examiner will want to know details about the circumstances around your separation from work. You will also have to provide the correct contact information about all of your base period employers.
You may also be required to fill out a questionnaire regarding your availability to work or your separation from work. This should help to resolve any issues of dispute between you and your employer when you file a claim. The questionnaires are available to view at the DTL website.
Weekly Certification and Maintaining Eligibility
To receive a payment, you must request it weekly through filing a continuing claim each week, often referred to as “certifying your claim.” You must certify to receive a payment. You won’t be paid for any weeks in which you don’t certify. If you miss a week, call the UI claims center as soon as possible.
- Certify online at https://teleserve.dlt.ri.gov, or,
2. Call the TeleServe automated payment system at (401) 243-9600.
You will have to answer several questions when you certify. The state uses weekly certification to help determine whether you continue to be eligible to receive benefits. The questions will address such areas as:
- Whether you are able and available to work
- Whether you are looking for work
- Whether you quit or started a new job
- Whether you refused an offer of suitable employment
- Whether you earned any wages from part-time work
If you earned part-time wages, report them during the certification process.
Part-time Work and Receiving Benefits
You may file an initial claim for partial benefits if your employer reduced your hours for lack of work. You may also work part-time after you begin receiving benefits. If you work full-time hours, you may not receive benefits for that week.
The state will reduce your WBA based on how much you earned during the week. The DLT will deduct your reported gross wages from your WBA, and then add 20% of your WBA to your actual payment.
If you fail to report wages, you face penalties from the state, ranging from a halt to your payment up to fraud charges. The state monitors employment data and matches the results with the list of benefit recipients.
Job Search Requirements
You must make a good faith effort to find a job while you’re receiving benefits. In Rhode Island, a good faith effort consists of:
- Three verifiable work search contacts for each week you requested benefits
- Actively searching for work on at least three separate days within each week.
Your can use a visit to a netWORKri one-stop career center. However, it can count for no more than one verifiable contact each week.
If your work search record includes use of an employment website (i.e. Craig’s List, Monster.com, etc.), that record must provide additional verifiable information, such as the company name and the specific position for which you applied.
If you have a definite return to work date within 12 weeks of your last day of work or you are a member of a labor union that uses a “hiring Hall” or business agent to find you work, you may be exempt from looking for work depending on the UI program that you are collecting on, i.e. Employment Security, Emergency Unemployment Compensation, or Extended Benefits.
The Department conducts ongoing Reemployment programs that identify individuals that may need additional assistance in finding reemployment. If selected you must report to a Career Center as instructed. Failure to report could cause a delay or loss of your benefits.
Reason for a Denial of Benefits
If you do not meet the monetary eligibility requirements, the state will deny your claim for benefits. If you do meet the requirement, the state may deny your claim based on issues related to your separation from work. If your claim is successful, the state may suspend benefits or deny a weekly claim because you failed to remain eligible.
The examiner will look at the circumstances of how your employment ended. If you quit, the examiner will check to see whether you quit with good cause. If not, they will deny your claim. If you were discharged, they will look for evidence of misconduct. If the examiner believes such evidence exists, they will deny benefits.
A “good cause” to quit is one that shows something your employer did or failed to do left you with no other possible course of action but to quit. If your employer failed to pay you for an unreasonable period, that may be a good cause to quit. If your employer forced you to work in unsafe conditions, you may be eligible to receive benefits in spite of quitting work.
You will have to show that you made a reasonable, good faith effort to keep your job. Did you speak with your supervisor or Human Resources officer about the situation? Did you try repeatedly to remedy the situation before quitting?
Misconduct is defined as behavior that shows a disregard for your employer’s interests. For example, coming to work late frequently in spite of warnings from your boss will show the claims examiner that you disregarded your employer’s authority and interests. However, if you were late to work because of a serious illness and then your boss fired you soon after, your conduct may not rise to the level of misconduct in that case.
The decision whether to deny benefits based on misconduct is fact-dependent in some cases. You will have to show, for example, that the action that got you fired was a simple mistake in judgement or a situation beyond your control. Your boss may be able to fire you for many reasons; however, those reasons may not be misconduct as defined by unemployment law.
In determining whether you caused your separation from work, the examiner will contact your former employer for their side of the story. They may accept the employer’s word in many cases. You may have to argue your case on appeal.
The DTL may place a stop on your claim if you have not complied with some requirement, like failing to report starting a new job. They will make a determination whether you will continue to receive benefits.
What Happens When Rhode Island Denies Unemployment
If the state denies benefits, you may appeal their decision. You have 15 calendar days in which to file the appeal. You may appeal online or in writing.
Learn more about the appeals process at our page on Rhode Island unemployment appeals.
The UI Claims Center offers help.
The Call Center hours are as follows:
Mondays: 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Tuesday: 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Thursdays: 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Fridays: 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Read the UI FAQ page to answer some questions