My name is Jocelyn Foye. I am the Director of The Womxn Project. The Womxn Project is a statewide organization focused on leveraging the power of art, activism, advocacy and education to advance the principles of reproductive justice, which demands that we all have the right to determine when and how we build our relationships, families and futures and that we have the ability to live and raise our children with dignity.
I am thrilled to submit testimony in support of H5683, which works to meet the needs of low-income Rhode Islanders by making critical changes to the RI Works program. RI Works is the state’s cash assistance program for children and their parents or caregivers and a work preparation program for the adults. The benefit has not been increased in 30 years, while all other New England states have adjusted their benefit to help families’ purchasing power keep up with inflation. This is not just absurd. It is unconscionable.
Right now, the 2,500 families enrolled in the program receive an average of $6/person/day. The benefit is 30% of the federal poverty level, meaning that children and their parents are pushed even deeper into poverty. It is time to make changes to the program to support both the short-term economic security of families using benefits from this program and to help provide parents with opportunities for well-paying, secure jobs.
The bill would increase the amount of cash assistance and alter eligibility to help more families. It would also ensure the benefit would be adjusted for inflation. This seems like common sense. The benefit for a family of 3 would rise from $554/month to $915/month, giving families more resource for toiletries, housing, transportation, clothing, food and other basic needs. The legislation would also provide a yearly clothing allowance of $100 to all children in the family.
Our communities are still trying to survive a pandemic. Black, Indigenous and other people of color, low-income families and people with disabilities in our state have been especially hard hit. It is more important than ever that we do all we can to ensure we can all take care of ourselves and our families, that we can get an education and secure a job where we can make a living wage, that we close gaps in access to care and support and do all we can to ensure true economic recovery and the health and wellbeing of all Rhode Islanders.
There are people right now trying to decide whether to pay rent or buy groceries. There are people who don’t know how they will make ends meet even with the assistance of the RI Works benefit. That means the program is NOT working. We can do better. We must do better!
We are proud to support this bill. The changes being proposed are long overdue. We urge swift passage of this legislation and a commitment to doing all we can to ensure the financial security and wellbeing of families in our state. We urge you to vote yes on this important legislation. Thank you.
Contact: Jocelyn Foye, 401-400-0061, [email protected]