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Public assistance and government aid in Rhode Island.

The amount of public assistance offered to individuals and families across Rhode Island is extensive. Qualified low income families may be able to receive cash assistance, SNAP food stamps, or help for medical bills. The government organization that oversees many of the resources is the Rhode Island Department of Human Services. Information on the public assistance and social services they provide is below, including how to apply.

Rhode Island Food Assistance is the umbrella name of the various meals, groceries, and food resources offered by the government. A few public aid programs are available in the state, and they are noted below.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which use to be known as food stamps, can help families and individuals buy nutritious food and groceries for their meals. The Rhode Island SNAP Program can even help people who are still working but are just struggling financially. It can provide help for them in buying nutritious meals and even advice and help people buy food too.

While conditions do need to be met and are in place by the Rhode Island Department of Human Services (RI DHS), they are trying to assist as many families as possible from this public program. For example, you can be working  or unemployed, preparing for work, receiving a pension or homeless and still get food stamps. So the program is wide ranging. In addition, applicants do not need to be participating in other Rhode Island DHS public assistance programs to receive food vouchers or benefits from SNAP food stamps.

Food Access Project is a newer pilot program and is also referred too as RI prepared meals. This service will allow eligible elderly and senior citizens, who are defined as age 60 and over, and the disabled and homeless who currently receive SNAP benefits to use their RI SNAP EBT voucher cards to purchase meals at participating restaurants.

Rhode Island Medical Assistance Program, which is also called its federal government name of Medicaid, is a federal as well as state-funded program that pays the medical bills and offers health related services for eligible Rhode Islanders. The Medical Assistance programs for eligible families and/or children are noted below, but they are all related to Medicaid.




RIte Share Program - Provides health coverage through an employer's health and/or dental insurance plan. The State of Rhode Island will pay all or part of an eligible employee's cost for the program.

RIte Care Program – The Department of Human Services offers low cost or maybe free comprehensive health care coverage through enrollment in participating health insurance plans.

Medical Bill Assistance for Children with Special Health Care Needs is also offered by RI's Medicaid manage care program. Children with special health care needs may qualify for public aid from Medical Assistance due to their medical condition or disability.

Temporary cash assistance and other public aid may be offered from Rhode Island Works. This is another Department of Human Services program that can provide cash, health care coverage, help finding a job or  accessing job training, or financial assistance for child care costs. This public assistance program is available for adults with children under age 18 and pregnant women. All of the resources are available statewide. A main goal is to help people find and keep work. Note that the Rhode Island Works cash assistance program use to be called the Family Independence Program (FIP).  Benefits of the resource include:

  • Free or low cost Health Care is offered to clients through the RIte Care Program. There is some flexibility in that families can choose a participating RIte Care health plan or provider.
  • Food Assistance (see above) is also available through food stamps, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
  • Bus passes or transportation reimbursement is available to support preparation for employment and help applicants get to interviews.
  • Get help with finding a job or access job training or career counseling.
  • Cash Assistance and/or grants are provided to families on a temporary basis that meet certain income guidelines.
  • Money for paying child care costs and cash assistance is provided if needed.





Rhode Island Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) – Public funds for providing child care assistance is also offered to qualified low income families. For parents that are currently participating in the Rhode Island Works Program, there is no total household income limit as the applicant has already met the government’s income requirements.

Eligibility for child care assistance is based on the family working 20 hours or more per week and also meeting income limits. Most participating families will also be required to make a co-payment towards their child care costs that will be based on their number of children, family size, and total income level. For more information, click here for Rhode Island free daycare.

General Public Assistance – Adults age 19-64 years of who have very limited resources or income and also have a medical condition or illness that keeps them from working may qualify. Sometimes, adults who apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) but are not yet determined eligible, can receive GPA benefits while their disability determination review occurs. This public program is also administered by the Department of Human Services.

Dental Care is provided to children who receive Medical Assistance, and services are offered from RIte Smiles or the Rhode Island Medical Assistance program.

RIte Smiles is the formal name of the dental plan for children of lower income families who are also eligible for RI Medical Assistance (including RIte Care, Medical Assistance fee-for-service and also RIte Share). Certain dentists participate in the program.

Phone number to apply for social services in RI

Apply or learn more by calling the Rhode Island Department of Human Services at 1-855-697-4347.


By Jon McNamara

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