COVID-19 - Workforce Issues

LAST UPDATED: October 1, 2020

The RI Hospitality Education Foundation launched the RI Hospitality Employee Relief Fund. To see who qualifies, or to make a donation, or to apply, please read more here.


Unemployment Insurance - If business is closed or employees told not to come in

Employees that are unemployed due to no fault of their own may be eligible for unemployment benefits. If a business is closed or tells people not to come in due to COVID-19, the employee may apply for benefits.

The State is waiving the seven day waiting period for those affected by COVID-19.

Employees who have lost their jobs or had their hours cut due to the COVID-19 outbreak are eligible for unemployment benefits.

Tipped employees are eligible for unemployment benefits and will receive benefits based on any wages they have claimed for taxation purposes.

In limited circumstances, business owners may also be eligible for benefits.

Employees must note that their unemployment claim is due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

There are two ways to file a claim for Unemployment Benefits:

ONLINE: File a new claim or refile your existing claim anytime using DLT's online claims system.

PHONE: Contact DLT at (401) 243-9100 to file a new claim or refile your claim during normal business hours.

DLT has estimated that it will take 1-2 weeks to get benefits.

Tipped employees are eligible for unemployment based on total amount of wages claimed.

When filling out the unemployment form, they should claim their hourly base wage, however, DLT will calculate their benefit amount based on all wages claimed.

Permanent residents are eligible for unemployment. They need to have their Alien Registration Number available. They will also need to send a copy or picture of their Alien Registration Card to

Probably not. The only people eligible for unemployment are those that pay into the system. J1 Visa applicants should contact the DLT helpline at: 401-462-2020 or the DLT call center: 401-243-9100.

We understand that many employees in the hospitality industry use it as supplemental income. If an employee has another full time job, as of right now, it is unlikely that they will be eligible for unemployment benefits.

Anyone has the right to file a claim. However, an undocumented immigrant would not be entitled to benefits as the wages earned were not during a period of authorized employment.

Potentially, if the hours are cut AND the person has gross wages less than the weekly benefit rate, the person would potentially be eligible for a partial benefit as long as they are otherwise eligible. In this case, the person files in the same manner. However, when they certify for benefits each week, they must report the weekly gross earnings.

A UI claim when filed is valid for 52 weeks. Once that 52 week period expires, the employees can file a new claim based on the wages paid during the most recent year. However, if the claim is still within the valid initial days and the person runs out of money, the claim is exhausted.

Health Insurance

There are other Health Care products available that are not insurance benefits but can help your staff and workforce, including telemedicine, home testing, and an Rx card. Learn more about these options here.

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) is a federal law concerning an individual’s right to continue health insurance benefits at his or her own expense for up to 36 months in the immediate aftermath of a qualifying event.

Qualifying events are those which cause an individual to lose health insurance coverage. The type of qualifying event determines who the qualified beneficiaries are and for how many months a plan must offer health coverage under COBRA.

COBRA qualifying events for employees are:

  • Voluntary or involuntary termination of employment for reasons other than gross misconduct; and,
  • Reduction in the number of hours worked.

COBRA qualifying events for spouses are (all events pertain to the covered employee, not the spouse):

  • Voluntary or involuntary termination of employment for any reason other than gross misconduct;
  • Reduction in hours worked;
  • Becoming eligible for Medicare;
  • Divorce or legal separation; and,
  • Death.

COBRA Financial Responsibility

The employee or their beneficiary customarily pays for the extended coverage after a qualifying event.

COBRA Qualifying Employers

Under federal COBRA law, qualifying employers are those with 20 or more full-time employees on 50% or more days of the year. Smaller employers are exempt from federal COBRA requirements but may fall under state COBRA law depending on the state wherein they live.

For more information on federal COBRA law, the Department of Labor has published, An Employer’s Guide to Group Health Continuation under COBRA. It is available to view or print at this link.

HealthSourceRI has opened a Special Enrollment due to COVID-19: Due to the potential spread of COVID-19, a special enrollment period is now available until April 15 for Rhode Islanders seeking health coverage.


Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) - If employee or family is sick/quarantined

Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) provides benefit payments to insured RI workers for weeks of unemployment caused by a temporary disability or injury.

Temporary Caregiver Insurance (TCI) provides eligible claimants up to 4 weeks of caregiver benefits to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, parent-in-law or grandparent, or to bond with a newborn child, new adopted child or new foster-care child.

TDI/TCI are funded by an employee payroll tax. Employees will need to apply through DLT to achieve the benefit.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, employees who have been exposed to the virus, may be eligible for TDI/TCI benefits. The State is waiving the seven day waiting period for those affected by COVID-19.

Paid Sick Leave

Paid Sick & Safe Leave - If employee or family is sick/quarantined

Employees are entitled to up to 40 hours of Paid Sick & Safe Leave (PSSL).

Under the law, employees may use PSSL to care for themselves or a family member.

Download our PSSL Flyer or contact Sarah Bratko at with questions.

No. Paid sick leave does not need to be paid out. If the employee has been with the company for over a year, any vacation or paid time off does need to be paid out.