RI business owner among thousands of residents losing unemployment benefits

West Bay

WEST WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Valerie Giguere typically offers trips nationally and internationally through her touring business, Gourmet Traveler.

“We usually go to Ireland and Italy, those are the two major ones,” she said. “We’ve been to Iceland many times and we’ve also been to Copenhagen.”

But now that she can no longer collect unemployment benefits, she’s concerned for the future of her business.

Giguere said she was forced to cancel all of her trips in 2020 and all but one trip in 2021.

“I’m going to try to do a New York trip this year,” Giguere said, adding that the trip is typically offered during the holidays.

Giguere said people aren’t booking trips like they used to because they’re worried about the highly-contagious delta variant.

“Vaccinated or unvaccinated, it really doesn’t make a difference. I think they’re just afraid,” Giguere said.

Giguere said she filed for unemployment in April 2020 as she struggled to keep her business afloat.

“That was money I was paying bills with,” Giguere said. “It’s pretty much just electric, water and heat.”

But with the recent expiration of two federal programs, Giguere will no longer be eligible to collect. She’s one of 46,000 Rhode Islanders trying to figure out what’s next.

“What am I going to do for money?” she said. “I don’t have the business coming in, it’s not coming in at all.”

For those who are no longer eligible for benefits but are still struggling to make ends meet, R.I. Department of Labor and Training Director Matt Weldon said it’s possible to recertify if you’ve returned to work and have earned at least $920.

But he said most people won’t qualify under these parameters.

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