RI DLT: More people are going back to work following change in benefit structure

Community Focus

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ As the state’s economy continues its rebound from the pandemic, R.I. Department of Labor and Training Director Matt Weldon tells 12 News that more people are heading back to work.

It’s been two weeks since Gov. Dan McKee signed off on legislation that allows those receiving unemployment to earn more at work while still collecting partial benefits and the additional $300/week boost.

“We knew that allowing people to earn more, and letting them know they could earn more while working than they could collecting would help,” Weldon said during his twice-monthly interview on 12 News Now at 4.

Watch the full interview in the video above.

Weldon said last week’s data shows approximately 445 Rhode Islanders who were collecting unemployment went back to work part-time, while an additional 590 are now working full-time and are no longer collecting unemployment.

Because of the change in law, Weldon said an additional 4,500 Rhode Islanders that were already working part-time are now keeping more of the money they earn.

“We know it’s working, we know the word is out and we are going to continue to work to make sure people take advantage of it,” he said.

Weldon said the DLT has launched a new online tool that allows Rhode Islanders to calculate how much people can earn while collecting.

“It’s just an estimated amount,” he explained. “It doesn’t mean necessarily that’s exactly what you could earn and there is a disclaimer about that. But much like other states, we thought it would be good for people have some clarity on how this could impact them.”

The DLT also recently reinstated its work-search requirement, meaning those collecting unemployment will once again have to prove they’re looking for a job to continue receiving benefits.

When asked whether he believes more people are looking for work, Weldon said absolutely, and he knows this because he receives dozens of direct emails about it daily.

“During the pandemic, my information became available online, and now I’m the most popular guy in the unemployment world,” he said while cracking a smile. “A lot of people are asking me about it… so I know they’re taking it seriously.”

While Weldon said it’s too early to determine exactly how many people they’ve audited, he confirmed the DLT is “building out a good strong process around that.”

Weldon said the Rhode Islanders the DLT audits will receive 10 days notice to provide proof of their job search. If there are no issues with the information provided, he said they won’t hear back.

But those who do hear back will need to meet with the DLT to discuss and review their claim.

“If that happens, they will still be able to collect until a decision is rendered against them,” he said.

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