PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — All Rhode Islanders who qualified for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits in August will be getting an extra check within the coming weeks, according to the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training.
The bonus payout comes after President Trump directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to disburse $44 billion from the disaster relief fund to boost unemployment benefits — a stopgap measure after $600 weekly bonus payments expired in late July and Congress failed to negotiate a new stimulus bill.
DLT Director Scott Jensen tells Target 12 that tens of millions of dollars were issued to Rhode Island under the new “Lost Wages Grant Assistance Program.” According to FEMA, states can provide the supplemental payments to anyone that’s eligible for at least $100 per week in unemployment benefits as of the week of August 1, but Jensen said they’re going to make sure everyone receives the boost.
Jensen said for those who receive weekly benefits of less than $100, the state will temporarily increase their benefit (the minimum benefit for RI is around $57).
“We’ll add in $43 from the state trust fund – to bring a person who’s in that circumstance benefit up to $100,” he said. “That will then allow that to qualify for the three hundred – and they can get some help that they need.”
Jensen said under the grant, Rhode Islanders who qualify will receive about $300 per week in extra benefits retroactive to August 1.
“FEMA only has a certain amount of money,” Jensen explained. “They’ve approved us for about three weeks.”
Jensen said recipients will likely get a one-time payment of roughly $900, and if someone wasn’t collecting benefits for all three weeks, they’d only receive $300 or $600.
“It’s just a matter of having the program pick out who is eligible for what and make sure that person gets what they’re entitled to,” Jensen said.
Gov. Gina Raimondo called on the Trump administration to “do the right thing and make it permanent, or do something even more for the millions of Americans who are out of work,” in her press briefing Monday
Jensen said the DLT is currently working to get the new program up and running to disburse the money within the next week or two. A federal grant will cover the cost of creating a new system to implement the changes, but Jensen said they will also have to take DLT staffers away from answering phones to assist Rhode Islanders who have an issue with their unemployment benefits.
“When the feds don’t plan well, and kind of take a circuitous route toward policy, it’s that much harder to implement, and people then have to wait that much longer,” he said.
House Democrats passed another coronavirus relief bill back in May, but Senate leaders are still wrangling over whether to take it up. Those discussions are expected to continue after Labor Day.
“We still need Congress to figure out how we should go forward in this context, in a more permanent way,” Jensen said.