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Governor Raimondo Provides Updates on Unemployment Insurance and Other Elements of COVID-19 Response

Governor Gina M. Raimondo and Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, the Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH), made several announcements today about the state's response to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Unemployment Insurance: The Governor signed an executive order yesterday ensuring that individual businesses that have closed as a result of COVID-19 will not be penalized for their workers accessing unemployment insurance. This order also allows for data sharing between state agencies. Rather than seeking individual tax records on a case-by-case basis, the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (DLT) will have access to the records of every person that has applied, speeding up their ability to process claims. It also allows for recent DLT retirees to rejoin state service and help process claims, without having to sacrifice their pensions. This will allow experienced workers to immediately help speed up processing.

Domestic Violence: The Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence and all of its member agencies are open, as are domestic violence shelters. Rhode Islanders seeking help can call the 24/7 confidential hotline at 1-800-494-8100. Services are provided in English and in Spanish. While courts are closed for non-essential business including evictions, they are open for all domestic violence matters.

RIPTA: As of today, RIPTA will be limiting capacity on all busses to no more than 15 passengers to allow for more space. They're also asking all passengers to use cloth face coverings when out in public. Starting next week, RIPTA will be filling gaps on delivery routes for Meals on Wheels.

The Governor also clarified eligibility requirements for unemployment insurance. As a general rule, Rhode Islanders can collect unemployment insurance only if they have been laid off or have had their hours reduced. In the CARES Act, the federal government expanded eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) for two specific groups of individuals:

The self-employed and those who are sole proprietors, like hairdressers and gig economy workers, and

Individuals who have COVID-19, have been quarantined or have been told by a doctor to self-quarantine because they are high risk, or are the only person available to care for a child or loved one who cannot stay home alone because the place they received care is closed due to COVID-19.

COVID-19 Data Update

Dr. Alexander-Scott announced today that Rhode Island has 288 new cases of COVID-19. This brings Rhode Island's count to 2,015. RIDOH also announced six additional COVID-19 associated fatalities. One of these people was in their 60s, four were in their 90s, and one was in their 100s. Rhode Island's number of COVID-19 associated fatalities is now 49. A full data summary for Rhode Island is posted online at health.ri.gov/data/covid-19

Key messages for the public:

Anyone who is sick should stay home and self-isolate (unless going out for testing or healthcare).

The people who live with that person and who have been in direct close contact with that person should self-quarantine for 14 days. Direct close contact means being within approximately 6 feet of a person for a prolonged period.

Help is available for people living in quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19. Visit www.RIDelivers.com for connections to groceries, home supplies, restaurants, and mutual aid groups. People can also call 2-1-1.

When people are in public, they should wear a cloth face covering. A cloth face covering is a material that covers the nose and mouth. It could be sewn by hand or improvised from household items such as scarves, T-shirts, or bandanas.

Groups of more than five people should not be gathering. Always avoid close personal contact with other people in public.

Healthcare workers should not be going to work if they are sick (even with mild symptoms).

People who think they have COVID-19 should call their healthcare provider. Do not go directly to a healthcare facility without first calling a healthcare provider (unless you are experiencing a medical emergency).

People with general, non-medical questions about COVID-19 can visit www.health.ri.gov/covid, write to RIDOH.COVID19Questions@health.ri.gov, or call 401-222-8022. This is the COVID-19 Hotline that RIDOH has available to the public.

Everyone can help stop the spread of viruses in Rhode Island. - Get your flu shot, and make sure the people around you do the same. - Wash your hands often throughout the day. Use warm water and soap. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. - Cough or sneeze into your elbow. - Stay home and do not leave your house if you are sick, unless it is for emergency medical care. - Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.

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