Press Release

Raising RI Coalition Kicks Off 2023 Legislative Priorities

Last updated: December 08, 2023

Raising RI Coalition Kicks Off 2023 Legislative Priorities

Endorsed legislation helps to end deep child poverty and protect families from the impact of inflation 

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

PROVIDENCE, RI – The Raising RI Coalition kicked off their 2023 legislative priority campaign at The State Library in the Rhode Island State House today. The coalition’s legislative priorities are included in Senate Bill 227 (Murray) and House Bill 5644 (Handy) which will improve Rhode Island Works, the state’s cash assistance and workforce readiness program. Participating in the kickoff were State Senator Melissa Murray (District 24), State Representative Arthur Handy (District 18), coalition members: The Economic Progress Institute, Rhode Island KIDS COUNT, United Way of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Genesis Center, Conexión Latina, Equus Workforce Solution, Progreso Latino, and Vrenely Espinosa, a parent participating in the RI Works program.

"Rhode Island children and their families have been hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic and now inflation," said Weayonnoh Nelson-Davies, Executive Director of The Economic Progress Institute. "RI Works has the potential to protect young families and kids from the most devastating effects of poverty. Increasing the quality of benefits in RI Works will go a long way in breaking the cycle of poverty that is so difficult to escape."

The Raising RI coalition outlined four goals for the year: 

1. Protect Rhode Island children and families from deep poverty and the effects of inflation: Increase the benefit to 50% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) with a cost-ofliving adjustment attached so the benefit will be automatically adjusted to follow changes in the FPL. Currently the benefit ($721 per month for a family of three) is equal to only 38% of the federal poverty level, and without a cost-of-living increase the benefit will continue to lose value. 

2. Undo harm to children: Eliminate the full family sanction which does not improve program compliance and falls disproportionately on parents who have significant barriers, including physical and mental health challenges, limited education, and domestic violence. 

3. Support the well-being of immigrant families: Eliminate the five-year waiting period for Legal Permanent Residents in the program, a waiting period that was introduced in 2008. 

4. Promote child and maternal health: Provide benefits to pregnant people from the onset of their pregnancy, rather than waiting until their third trimester, so pregnant people can meet their basic needs and have healthy births. 

“The RI Works Program is intended to serve as a safety net for Rhode Island children and families, but there are too many holes in this net," said Paige Clausius-Parks, Executive Director of Rhode Island KIDS COUNT. "First time parents are not getting the support early enough, and children are not being kept out of deep poverty. Over the past few years, we have improved this program, but more changes – these changes – are needed to help children and families flourish." 

The Raising RI Coalition has more than 60 organizational members, is committed to lifting children out of deep poverty, and breaking the cycle of poverty by providing parents with education and training opportunities leading to well-paying, secure jobs. To learn more about the coalition visit ###

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