Rhode Island Unemployment

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Unemployment Eligibility and Qualifications

General Benefits Eligibility Criteria

Do you qualify for unemployment benefits? The only way to know for sure is to apply. However, you can determine your Rhode Island unemployment benefits eligibility by the following criteria. They are broken up into two different categories.

In Rhode Island, these criteria are very forgiving. Remember, though, that your employer paying unemployment taxes doesn't automatically make you eligible for Rhode Island unemployment benefits.

Work Eligibility Criteria

The first step in deciding on your eligibility for Rhode Island unemployment benefits is passing the following work eligibility criteria. To qualify, you must be:

  • Unemployed through no fault of your own
  • Able to work full-time
  • Available to work full-time
  • Actively seeking full-time work
  • Able to prove you earned enough wages in the standard or alternative Base Period

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The latter point is perhaps the most important because it will not only indicate whether you are eligible for unemployment benefits, but how much you will receive.  

Wages Eligibility Criteria

The first wages criteria for Rhode Island unemployment is making at least $11,520 in your Base Period. The standard Base Period in Rhode Island is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters before the day you filed your claim. Quarters of the year include: January-March, April-June, July-September, and October-December.

If you did not make at least $11,520 in the standard Base Period, the alternative Base Period would be used instead. This is the last four completed quarters, including the quarter that was skipped in the standard Base Period.

Failure to qualify in this manner will require passing the following criteria under either Base Period:

  • Earn at least $1,920 in one quarter
  • Total wages of at least one and a half times the highest quarter
  • Wages of at least $3,840

EXAMPLE: You earned $11,400 in the standard Base Period and $10,384 in the alternative Base Period. Based on that criterion, you don't qualify.

However, if you made $2,000 in your highest quarter and had total Base Period wages of $8,000 in the Alternative Base Period, you would qualify.

Unemployment Availability Limits

Even if you qualify for unemployment benefits under these criteria, you may still be denied coverage if you:

  • Quit your job without an excusable reason (such as health-related problems)
  • Were fired due to misconduct (such as harassing a coworker)
  • Lost your job due to a strike
  • Are not available to or unable to work without good reason
  • Refuse to actively seek employment or turn down suitable work
  • Earn equal to or more than your Weekly Benefit Amount (WBA)

If you are currently working less than full-time hours (under 40) and your gross wages are less than your WBA, it is possible to earn partial benefits.

Employees who are not covered for unemployment insurance eligibility include:

  • The sole proprietor of a business or their spouse
  • Children under 18 working for a parent's business
  • Partners in a partnership business
  • Students working at a school or university which they are attending
  • Real estate agents paid solely on commission
  • Insurance brokers and agents paid entirely by commission
  • Church employees
  • Licensed and ordained ministers
  • Crew members of a fishing boat with a normal crew of less than 10 people, when their only pay is a share of the catch
  • Americorp program employees

Unemployment Extensions

While Rhode Island did receive funds from the Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation and State Extended Benefits funds, these programs ended on July 7, 2012 and December 28, 2013, respectively. As a result, there are currently no extended benefits available in the state.