Friday, April 10, 2020
Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo announced Friday 6 additional coronavirus deaths in the state for a total of 49 — and a total of now 2,015 COVID-19 cases.
At a closed, live-streamed briefing at the State House, Raimondo said that the state recorded 288 new COVID-19 cases over the past day, and in total, there are now 169 hospitalizations.
“We have tens of thousands of people unemployed. It’ like nothing we’ve ever lived through before. I’m working hard every minute of every day to get you back to work as soon as possible,” said Raimondo.
“We are totally overwhelmed — 132,000 claims. We’ve never seen anything like that,” said Raimondo. “Some days we’re receiving ten, twelve, fourteen thousand in a day.”
“I’ll be the first to acknowledge the system is not perfect and you’re going to have to wait longer than you should for a check,” said Raimondo. “Every day we’re getting faster and more accurate. Currently, it still takes between one and two weeks to process claims.”
Changes to Benefits
“Federal law guarantees 10 paid sick days for any employee — anyone who is quarantined or 14 days can stay home and get a paycheck. This is a new federal benefit, if you’re sick, ordered into quarantine, or caring for someone who is sick,” said Raimondo.
“As a general rule, you can only collect [unemployment] if you’ve been laid off or your hours reduced. You have to have been laid off, or your hours severely reduced. And that also includes if we have forced your business to close and you’ve been laid off,” said Raimondo.
“In the CARES Act, the federal government expanded eligibility to unemployment insurance — Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits and unemployment assistance. This covers two more classes of people who have been laid off and funded by the federal government — self-employed and sole proprietors,” said Raimondo, who said Rhode Island was the “first state” to get PUA “out the door.”
“The second group — these are people who maybe haven’t actually been laid off but are eligible for the PUA, who have been told by a doctor to self-quarantine because you were high risk or you were the only person to care for a loved one because their place of care was closed, and you haven’t lost your job or were laid off but you were affected in such a way that the federal government says you deserve a benefit,” said Raimondo, who noted that next week the DLT is expected to have regulations around how that will act — if “people qualify.”
“If your business is currently open, it’s because it’s an essential business. Please do not quit your job because you think it will be easy to get unemployment benefits, because it isn’t,” said Raimondo. “[If] you still have a job and your employment and your employers is still open, we will have to go through case by case.”
“If you haven’t been laid off but think you fit into that narrow category that your doctor says you can’t go to work, you’re eligible for a PUA benefit,” said Raimondo. “But I’m warning you, you will be denied if you slip through and we find you shouldn’t [be getting benefits]. You will be fined.”
“Those of us who can work have to work — if you’re healthy we need you to do it,” said Raimondo. “If you’re an employer I need you to do what you can do to keep employees safe — you must provide them an opportunity to have appropriate social distancing. Do your job and do it safely.”
Workers Might Also Get Benefits
On Friday, Raimondo said that people who are currently working could also be eligible for benefits.
“I am calling on Congress to provide a similar benefit to low wage workers who are still going to work,” said Raimondo. “There should be an increased benefit to those workers who are still going to work — which is harder than ever to go to these essential businesses.”
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