PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — More than 10,000 Rhode Islanders filed claims for the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program on the first day it was offered in Rhode Island.
The R.I. Department of Labor and Training on Wednesday released daily unemployment numbers related to the COVID-19 pandemic, showing 10,910 people filed for the new benefit offered as part of the recently approved $2.2 trillion CARES Act stimulus package.
The new program is designed to cover people who don’t typically qualify for traditional Unemployment Insurance, including people who are self-employed, gig-economy workers, independent contractors and others.
The new PUA claims — combined with the more than 110,000 people who cited COVID-19 as the reason for being out of work when applying for UI, Temporary Disability Insurance (which includes Temporary Caregiver Insurance) — pushes the number of Rhode Islanders who’ve sought out-of-work benefits above 120,000 since early March.
Combined with people who are out of work unrelated to the pandemic, a rough estimate suggests the unemployment rate could be above 20% in Rhode Island, based on the most recently available labor force data from February — when the unemployment rate totaled 3.4%.
That’s well above the peak unemployment rate during the Great Recession in Rhode Island.