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As COVID cases climb, so do RI applications for disability insurance

12 Responds

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As new COVID-19 cases are spiking in Rhode Island — pushing more people into quarantine and out of work — so are applications for Temporary Disability Insurance.

Matt Weldon, the director of the R.I. Department of Labor and Training, said TDI and Temporary Caregivers Insurance applications has averaged about 900 per week in recent months. But over the past month, those numbers have mushroomed.

“Since November we have climbed up every week just a little at a time,” Weldon said. “Last week we had about 1,600 claims.”

“It’s pretty busy right now,” he added.

According to DLT data, there were 1,450 new TDI and TCI claims the week ending Dec. 4, 1,593 the week ending Dec. 11, and 1,626 last week. Weldon said the increase in applications reflects the spike in coronavirus cases and the end of federal unemployment benefits.

Generally, TDI benefits are roughly 60% of an individual’s income up to a cap of just under $1,000 per week. TDI benefits are not taxed, while TCI benefits are.

“We had the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program which was created by the federal government to provide unemployment benefits to people impacted by COVID,” Weldon said. “That expired that first weekend in September.

“Since then, people who have been directly impacted by COVID — meaning they have COVID or they have to quarantine — have not been eligible for unemployment,” he added. “So people have been applying for TDI.”

That’s the case for Katherin Ciociola. She reached out to 12 Responds on WPRI.com with a question after seeing the TDI application requires “that you be physically examined by a Qualified Healthcare Provider,” according to the online claim portal.

“On the application it does ask you for doctor information,” said Ciociola, who recently began feeling sick and expected to get tested on Tuesday. “If you’re just going to a testing site, you wouldn’t have that.”

Ciociola works from home so her income would likely not be impacted. But her boyfriend doesn’t have that option, and with two kids she worries about the hit to their revenue if he were to get sick or have to stay home and miss work.

“If he needs to isolate or quarantine how are we going to pay our bills, buy food for our family,” she said. “We’re just trying to plan ahead.”

Earlier in the pandemic, former Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order that waived the doctor’s note requirement, but that has since expired. Weldon said for the first week of benefits, however, the applicant does not need to provide a physician’s certification.

“All they need is some sort of documentation, meaning an email from the Department of Health or a test result,” Weldon said. “We would accept that.”

Right now, a doctor’s note would be required after the first week of benefits, but Weldon said he will soon be expanding that to two weeks because health officials are recommending people quarantine for 10 days when they test positive.

Tim White (twhite@wpri.com) is the Target 12 managing editor and chief investigative reporter at 12 News, and the host of Newsmakers. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

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