PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The R.I. Department of Labor and Training (DLT) has been working hard to improve its system ever since the pandemic led to thousands of claims and questions into their call center, according to Acting Director Matt Weldon.
“During the pandemic we were hit by an onslaught of claims that no department in the country was prepared for,” Weldon said during an interview on 12 News Now at 4. “It forced our hand, so we’ve improved with technology, we’ve added resources, we’ve added people and we’re doing an awful lot today to help about 1,000 individuals every day with calls that they make.”
Eventually, they plan on introducing new technology that will allow Rhode Islanders to check the status of their claims, which he said, “will hopefully prevent some calls from coming in.”
When asked what will happen if Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) isn’t extended again by Congress and lapses on March 13, Weldon said those impacted will be notified.
“That message is provided to them so they know, ‘Hey next week I might not have benefits,'” Weldon explained. “But what I’m telling everyone though, is to try certifying the following week.”
If Congress extends the program, Weldon said the DLT will be ready.
“If there are additional weeks that are created, we’re going to get that programmed immediately,” he said. “Rhode Island has been one of the first states in the country to pay with all these new programs, from the beginning of the pandemic until now.”
Weldon, who recently took over for former DLT Director Scott Jensen upon his resignation, said he plans to hire a small business ombudsman. He said it’s been a consistent challenge to ensure the state’s small businesses have a voice within the DLT.
“Small business needs a voice,” he said. “We want to be able to provide an ear to them and a voice back to them to let them know we’re here for them and we’re here to help.”
In the above video, Weldon also details the DLT’s virtual career center and what resources are available to Rhode Islanders.