The U.S. Department of Labor has formally notified the state Department of Labor and Training that Rhode Island no longer qualifies for the State Extended Benefits unemployment insurance program, based on its latest unemployment data.
The State Extended Benefits program represents the third in a series of three active unemployment insurance programs in Rhode Island, and can provide up to 20 weeks of benefits to qualifying job seekers. More than 1,800 Rhode Island claimants are currently enrolled in the program.
This change will reduce the maximum number of weeks RI unemployment insurance claimants can collect benefits from 99 weeks to 79 weeks. It is important to note that neither regular Unemployment Insurance, which offers up to 26 weeks of benefits, nor the Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which offers up to 53 weeks of benefits, will be affected by the end of the State Extended Benefits program.
To qualify for State Extended Benefits, a state must have a three-month moving average that is at least 110 percent higher than the same three-month period during one of the previous three years—2009, 2010 or 2011. According to these parameters, Rhode Island would have needed to reach a three-month moving unemployment average of 11.4 percent in order to remain on the State Extended Benefits program. Rhode Island triggered off the program when itsunemployment rate between March 2012 and May2012 averaged 11.1 percent. Massachusetts triggered off State Extended Benefits in April of this year, and Connecticut triggered off in May. Idaho will be the only state to remain on a State Extended Benefits program after July 7, 2012.
Beginning today, June 18, the state will adhere to a three-week transition period, during which time claimants currently enrolled in the State Extended Benefits program will continue to receive benefits. All State Extended Benefits will stop the week ending July 7; final payments are scheduled to take place during the week of July 8 to 14. The average weekly payment under the State Extended Benefits is $365.
July 1 is the last effective date for new State Extended Benefits claims in Rhode Island. After that time, any claimant exhausting his or her benefits from the previous unemployment insurance program, known as Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation, will not be eligible for any additional unemployment insurance benefits through the State of Rhode Island.
During the month of May 2012, the federal government paid out approximately $2.8 million in State Extended Benefits to Rhode Island claimants. Prior to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), State Extended Benefits were financed equally by the state and federal trust funds. Since ARRA, however, State Extended Benefits have been financed exclusively by the federal government, and any payments made under the State Extended Benefits program have not impacted the balance of the state unemployment insurance trust fund. Both the state and federal trust funds are financed by employer contributions.
This week, the Department of Labor and Training is mailing notifications of the program's end to all current State Extended Benefits claimants. It is also urging those claimants to consider using netWORKri career one-stop services to assist with their job search, and is providing information on other social service programs such as United Way 2-1-1 and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).