4/02/2020 — 

PROVIDENCE, RI – As record numbers of Americans are out of work and filing for unemployment assistance, U.S. Senator Jack Reed is urging the Trump Administration to swiftly issue guidance to states and help get funds out the door and into the hands of those eligible for assistance.

The recently passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which Senator Reed helped negotiate, includes additional funding to ensure eligible jobless Americans across the country receive $600 release a week on top of what they qualify for under the state’s existing UI program.  The law also expands eligibility for the self-employed, gig workers, 1099-independent contractors, and others with inconsistent job histories.

But while first-time claims for unemployment benefits have surged more than 3,000 percent since early March, the U.S. Department of Labor still needs to demonstrate the same sense of urgency as states and those in need of assistance.

“The entire goal of the CARES Act is to help those in need quickly.  The U.S. Senate unanimously voted for the law.  Senators did so because they knew people need urgent help, not bureaucracy, and certainly not ideologically-driven worries about helping too many people at a time of incredible and historic need,” said Senator Reed

The federal-state unemployment insurance (UI) system is designed to help people who have lost their jobs by temporarily replacing part of their wages.  Reed notes that the new pandemic unemployment programs under the CARES Acts extends benefits for 13 weeks, making Rhode Islanders eligible for up to 39 weeks, retroactive to January 27, 2020 and ending on December 31, 2020. 

Usually, there is a one-week waiting period to begin collecting unemployment.  But the CARES Act incentivized states to waive that waiting period and will fully reimburse Rhode Island for being an early adapter by compensating the state and fully covering unemployment compensation to individuals for their first week of regular unemployment. 

Rhode Islanders can apply for unemployment insurance (UI), temporary disability insurance (TDI), or temporary caregiver insurance (TCI) benefits online through the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (DLT).

However, in order to pay out the new benefits, DLT continues to wait for the U.S. Department of Labor to issue guidance for states on how to proceed.  The states have been in contact with the U.S. Department of Labor and are frustrated by the slow pace of progress and the lack of priority the Trump Administration is placing on helping out of work Americans.

DLT will continue processing unemployment insurance applications under existing Rhode Island law.

Any additional federal benefit payments, such as the $600 per week in CARES Act benefits, requires additional federal guidance and additional system programming, but it should be retroactive once the U.S. Department of Labor finally signs off.

“For the good of the country, the Trump Administration needs to pull it together quickly, drop the ideology worries, and get these benefits out the door and into the hands of Americans who need them,” said Reed.

The CARES Act passed the U.S. Senate on March 25 and was signed into law on March 27.