Around New England

Unemployment Checks Leading Some People To Say No To Employers Who Want To Re-Open

May 9, 2020

Some people whose unemployment checks are higher than their normal paychecks are telling employers who want to re-open that they don’t want to go back to work.

And public officials aren’t sure what to do about it.

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo fielded a question about the situation during her coronavirus press conference Thursday, May 7.

Raimondo acknowledged the problem and said it is widespread.

During the press conference, a woman read questions from reporters out loud to the governor.

A transcript of the exchange about unemployment checks is below. The question and answer begin at 44:31 (and -14:07) in the video.


Question Reader:  Continuing the theme, Ted Nisi of WPRI 12 says some business owners say they want to start reopening in Phase One, but claim their employees say they won’t come back because they’re making more money on unemployment. Is that allowed? And what should employers do in this situation?


Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo:  It’s an issue. I’m going to say that is a real issue.

I want to be careful here, because I am so deeply grateful to the United States Congress and our congressional delegation for moving quickly to expand unemployment insurance. It was the right thing to do, and it is saving Rhode Island.

On the flip side, the additional $600 check, which was well-intended, is, you know, that’s a factor. It’s relating to what you say.

Now it does expire. So definitely when that goes away that calculation will change for people.

Here’s what I would say. And this is, what I would say. Do the right thing. Like – it, it, it does, it does frustrate me that, you know, this was an initiative intended to help people get back on their feet. It was not an initiative for folks to make more staying home, and then that hurts their business. That was never the intent.

In the long run, you’re going to want your job to be there. So, if your employer is reopening, I’d encourage you to work with your employer and get your job back.

And, you know, there’s only so much that we can do. What we are trying to do, is help businesses find employees. So we’re using Skills for Rhode Island’s Future. We’re doing a lot of matching. We’re trying to train employees and work with employers.

But I can’t deny that what you say is a fact, it’s happening in the labor market – by the way, not just in Rhode Island. It’s happening in America.