New stimulus package includes extra $300 per week in unemployment benefits

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — R.I. Department of Labor and Training Director Scott Jensen tells 12 News that, if Congress votes to send the COVID-19 stimulus package to President Donald Trump’s desk, it will affect several aspects of the state’s unemployment program.

The relief package would establish a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit and a $600 direct stimulus payment to most Americans, along with a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses and money for schools, health care providers and renters facing eviction.

Jensen said the current Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits are set to expire on Dec. 26, but if the stimulus bill is passed, it should renew on Dec. 27.

“That is welcome news to everybody who’s heading into a tough holiday season,” he said.

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A viewer wrote into 12 Responds Monday asking whether they would need to re-certify to receive the additional $300 payment. Jensen said no, and that it would be sent automatically.

“You’ll see it in your check the week of the 27th,” he said.

He said when it comes to the other programs, the DLT is currently working on ways to make that recertification process automatic as well. But for now, he said to, “follow the directions that you receive with your certification.”

Anyone who’s been unemployed for an extended period of time and is looking for work can visit the state’s website backtoworkri.com, according to Jensen.

He also said the DLT will be offering free training for any of the job opportunities that are listed there.

“It is really tough, this virus has pushed some already weak spots in our economy and we need to make that switch, we need to get back to work, and that’s exactly what the governor’s program is about,” he said.

Jensen said next year the DLT is planning to launching a virtual career center, which will include a chat bot named “Skipper.” The virtual career center, he said, will connect Rhode Islanders directly with companies that have job openings.

“I am excited to play a small role in individual Rhode Islanders’ comebacks,” he said. “We’re looking forward to moving past the pandemic and into an even stronger future.”

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