9/23/2015 — 

WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to increase unemployment insurance integrity and decrease fraudulent overpayments and unintentional mistakes in the system, the state’s Congressional delegation and Governor Gina M. Raimondo announced today that Rhode Island is receiving $2,359,917 in federal funds to bolster the state’s unemployment program. 

The federal grant from the U.S. Department of Labor will help the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (DLT) prevent and detect improper benefit payments, improve program performance, address outdated information technology systems, and combat employee misclassification that underpays and denies benefits to workers and hurts local economies.

The state will receive $359,917 to improve UI program integrity and technology to help save taxpayers by preventing fraud and incorrect payments.  Additionally, DLT has been awarded $1.5 million from a $5.7 million consortium technology project grant to collaborate efforts to improve service levels and modernize state UI systems.  The other states participating in the consortium who were awarded federal funds through the project include: Connecticut ($2.1 million), Mississippi ($1.59 million), and Maine ($500,000).

DLT will also receive $500,000 to identify instances where employers improperly classify employees as independent contractors or fail to report the wages paid to workers at all. In addition to denying workers access to critical benefits and protections to which they are entitled, worker misclassification generates substantial losses to state unemployment insurance funds.

“In my jobs plan, I made it clear it is time to reinvigorate Rhode Island and state government with fresh ideas and new ways of doing things so that we can enhance accountability, control costs, and get better results for our citizens,” Governor Raimondo said. “With this grant, we will continue to improve efficiency within the Unemployment Insurance program, advance the launch of a new claims benefit platform, and ensure that Spanish-speaking customers receive superb customer service. Additionally, this grant will help us combat employee misclassification and support our overall focus of growing the economy.”

“This is a smart investment of federal funds that will help generate real savings for taxpayers.  I am pleased the state continues efforts to enhance the integrity of the UI system and I will continue working to ensure this critical lifeline remains strong,” said U.S. Senator Jack Reed, who has led bipartisan efforts in Congress to strengthen unemployment insurance and help people who’ve been out of work return to the labor force.

“Unemployment insurance is one of the most important lifelines available to workers who have lost their jobs,” said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. “Rooting out fraud and abuse helps ensure that Rhode Island workers can continue to depend on this program.  This funding will also help to fix the serious problem of employers misclassifying recipients as independent contractors to avoid paying into the UI program – a problem that costs workers the benefits they’ve earned, and harms state unemployment insurance funds.”

“Rhode Island’s unemployment rate is on the decline, but unemployment insurance remains a vital safety net that makes it possible for those who are out of work to look aggressively for a stable job that fits their needs, maximizes their abilities and will allow them to effectively provide for their families,” said Congressman Jim Langevin. “This grant will reduce fraud and abuse, ensuring that funds are used appropriately and are disseminated to people who deserve and have earned these benefits. As co-chair of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, I am also pleased to see attention paid to IT security, and I hope improved technology systems will further reduce fraud, protect beneficiaries and maintain the security of the unemployment insurance program.”

“Unemployment insurance is an essential resource for Rhode Islanders who have lost a job but are still doing everything they can to provide for their family,” said Congressman David Cicilline. “I am delighted that Rhode Island is receiving more than $2.3 million to cut down on unemployment fraud, promote greater integrity in the system, and ensure these essential benefits go towards those who need them.”

Nationwide, the U.S. Department of Labor awarded more than $39.3 million in federal grants this week to enhance unemployment insurance programs in 45 states and territories.