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I am unemployed as a result of COVID-19.  What benefits are available to me?

Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Congress expanded unemployment compensation for workers who have lost income, contracts, or their jobs as a result of COVID-19.  The CARES Act:

  • Provides eligibility for many individuals now unemployed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but who typically would not qualify for normal unemployment compensation. Through this Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, self-employed workers (including gig workers and independent contractors), part-time workers, and those with irregular work histories are now eligible for unemployment benefits, as are individuals who are unable or unavailable to work due to illness, quarantine, or child care needs, or who have had a job offer revoked because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Individuals who are not approved for regular unemployment insurance may still be eligible for this assistance, and can apply for this program HERE.
  • Adds an additional $600 per week to most unemployment benefits received through July 2020.
  • Increases the maximum amount of time an individual can receive unemployment benefits by 13 weeks.  These additional weeks raise the maximum amount of time an unemployed worker can receive benefits to 39 weeks.
  • Incentivizes states to waive waiting periods for workers who have applied for benefits.

I was laid off before the COVID-19 crisis began. Can I still receive the expanded unemployment benefits recently created by Congress?

Yes.  While every unemployment situation is unique, individuals who have already exhausted some, or all, of the standard 26 weeks of unemployment compensation may still be eligible for the additional 13 weeks of benefits created by the CARES Act.  This is true even if the unemployment is unrelated to COVID-19, and individuals will receive the extra $600 included in weekly payments through July 2020. 

How much will I receive in unemployment benefits?

The exact amount you can receive through unemployment benefits depends on your previous earnings.  Through July 2020, an additional $600 will be added to most weekly unemployment benefits, so individuals receiving unemployment benefits should receive no less than $600 per week.

The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training has announced that this $600 boost will be paid retroactively, starting the week beginning March 29, 2020.

Will I still receive added benefits if I participate in Rhode Island’s WorkShare program?

Yes.  Employees who participate in Rhode Island’s WorkShare program will also receive the additional $600 in weekly payments through July 2020.  The CARES Act includes 100 percent federal funding for work-share programs for 2020 in states like Rhode Island with programs already in place.  These programs provide struggling companies with the flexibility to reduce hours while ensuring participating employees keep their jobs and receive a portion of unemployment insurance benefits to make up for lost wages. 

For more information or to apply for unemployment insurance, visit the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training’s Website.

You can learn more about Rhode Island’s WorkShare program HERE.