Clarifying Unemployment; Downsizing 2020 Wedding Plans

by | Apr 10, 2020

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

At her daily COVID-19 new conference, Gov. Gina Raimondo once again broke down the unemployment benefits and who can receive them during this pandemic time. And she – well, Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott – got real about the likelihood of holding a wedding of even 50 or 60 people in the next several months.

There were also the numbers for Friday: 288 new cases, and 6 new deaths, including two residents of Scalabrini Villa, a nursing home and rehab facility in North Kingstown. The number of confirmed cases in East Greenwich remained at 8. Find a link to the most recent Rhode Island data HERE.

About unemployment, Raimondo said right now it takes between one and two weeks to process claims. The new pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA) benefits cover two additional classes of people who have been laid off. The first category is those who are self-employed or members of the gig economy. Applications for those workers are fairly straightforward. A little more fraught is the second category, for people who haven’t been laid off but have been told by a doctor to self-quarantine, or are the only person available to care for a child or loved one who cannot stay alone and the place they would normally go to is closed because of the pandemic. 

Because these claims are more complicated, they will take longer to process, Raimondo said. This category is not a route for those who would like to quit their jobs, she admonished.

“If you’re able to go to work, we need you to go to work,” said Raimondo. “If you still have a job, and your employer is still open, there will be strict scrutiny” of your claim. It could take a month or more to process. It may be a scary time to go to work but Rhode Island needs you, she said.

The Highwomen at the 2019 Newport Folk Festival. The 2020 festival appears unlikely. 

“And employers, do everything you can to keep your employees safe. It’s on the employers to make sure conditions are safe.” 

In a follow-up call with reporters, Raimondo was asked about summer events, like the Newport Folk and Jazz festivals, and weddings. 

It’s too soon to tell, she said, but then added, “It’s very difficult for me to imagine we’re going to be allowing large groups of people to congregate,” she said. In thinking about reopening the economy, she said businesses that cater to large groups “are going to be the very last to be allowed to reopen.”

With regard to weddings, Raimondo first said, a wedding of 300 people in the next few months would have to be scaled back or pushed way off. She started to suggest a smaller wedding, of 50 to 60 people, might be OK in a few months, then Raimondo said she could see Alexander-Scott shaking her head, “No.”

Find the R.I. Dept. of Health’s full Friday press release here: 

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

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 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, write to [email protected], 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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William Yehle
William Yehle
April 11, 2020 6:52 am

My wife is the sole proprietor of a moving survey company, there is money in the business account but the business had dried up like so many others because of coved-19, With no business coming in is my wife eligible for unemployment even thought there is money in the business account. She normally takes a weekly payroll check as an employee. Is she eligible for Unemployment if she is not being payed at all. Any help with this is appreciated.


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