Q&A: What to know about the expiration of pandemic unemployment benefits

Community Focus

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders will see their incomes slashed as the federal programs offering financial support to workers during the pandemic come to an end.

The federal programs include one that provided jobless aid to the self-employed and gig workers and another that provided benefits to those who have been unemployed for more than six months. Further, the Biden administration’s $300 weekly supplemental unemployment benefit also ran out.

A Target 12 analysis of R.I. Department of Labor and Training (DLT) data shows benefits are ending entirely for nearly 46,000 residents. Another 11,000 Rhode Islanders will be losing an extra $300 per week provided on top of traditional unemployment insurance.

DLT Director Matt Weldon said of those 46,000 Rhode Islanders, 29,000 were collecting through the pandemic program while the other 16,000 were collecting extensions on top of regular unemployment benefits.

In his bi-monthly interview on 12 News Now at 4, Weldon said the DLT was averaging up to 11,000 claimants a week before COVID hit and sent unemployment rates through the roof.

Watch the full interview in the video below.

In May of 2020, Weldon said they saw an average of 125,000 weekly claimants. He fully expects the unemployment numbers to drop to pre-pandemic levels with the expiration of the federal programs.

Weldon said the DLT has been communicating regularly with those receiving unemployment benefits, so this loss of income shouldn’t come as a surprise.

“Everyone, when they certified for the last payment, received a unique message tailored to what program they were on that would tell them what they could do if anything,” he said. “Most people at this point are not going to qualify going forward.”

When asked Rhode Islanders who are losing their benefits should do, he suggested visiting the state’s online platform Back to Work RI, which offers free services to those looking to reenter the workforce.

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