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'Back to Work RI' Bill Would Allow Trial Employment

Those on unemployment would be able to continue collecting while training with a prospective employer.


Legislation to allow job-seekers to collect unemployment while participating in job training at companies looking to hire has been introduced in the Rhode Island Senate.

Sponsored by Sen. Erin P. Lynch (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), the workforce development legislation creates what is known as the Back to Work Rhode Island Program. It is a key component of the Senate’s “Moving the Needle” initiative to address Rhode Island’s business rankings.

The bill establishes the “Back to Work Rhode Island” program within the Department of Labor and Training. Modeled after popular and successful programs in Georgia and New Hampshire, the initiative enables individuals receiving unemployment benefits to volunteer to be matched with businesses who are seeking employees. The businesses would agree to provide up to six weeks of quality training through “trial” employment at no cost to the employer. Workers would continue to receive their unemployment benefits as employers assess and train the job candidates, at no cost and no risk. After six weeks, the employer can decide whether to hire the employee.

“This legislation provides valuable on-the-job training for unemployed workers who need new skills and a chance to prove themselves,” said Senator Lynch. “Job-seekers get a chance to assess the company, gain valuable skills, fill in gaps of inactivity in their work history, and demonstrate what they can do for prospective employers. Ideally, they are a good match and they find long-term employment. In any event, they gain valuable skills training which will help them in their job search.”

Senator Lynch noted that the program costs nothing, since it trains individuals who are already collecting unemployment. Meanwhile, it encourages employers to invest in job training for these potential new workers and, if they choose, to hire individuals who have received the kind of job training they need to make them well-skilled and valuable employees.

The program proposed in the bill would be overseen by the Department of Labor and Training. Individuals receiving unemployment compensation would be matched with an employer that has applied to DLT and met certain requirements. The bill makes the program voluntary, and encourages individuals seeking work to find employment opportunities that align with their current job skills and knowledge.

“In this difficult economy, this bill is good for both job seekers and employers because it encourages employers to provide training and helps job-seekers gain the skills necessary for success,” said Senator Lynch.

Co-sponsors include Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown), Senate Minority Leader Dennis L. Algiere (R-Dist. 38, Westerly, Charlestown, South Kingstown), Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, Providence, North Providence) and Sen. Paul W. Fogarty (D-Dist. 23, Glocester, Burrillville, North Smithfield).

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