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1/18/2011 Rep. McNamara introduces 'Return to Work' initiative
Unemployed could get job training while receiving unemployment benefits

STATE HOUSE – Unemployed Rhode Islanders want to get back to work, and many employers would like to add qualified staff, but Rep. Joseph M. McNamara knows that there are disincentives to getting off unemployment compensation and fears in the private sector about taking on and training additional wage earners.

“Employers, especially small businesses, remain uncertain about taking on new employees and new salaries, and it can be a very difficult decision for some Rhode Islanders on unemployment to give up benefits for a job that may not last or for an entry level/training position that pays less than the benefit check,” said Representative McNamara, Chairman of the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare.

Representative McNamara has introduced legislation, The Rhode Island Return to Work Act, that he believes will address the concerns of both the unemployed and employers, by allowing individuals to continue to collect benefits while they are involved in an approved training program with a Rhode Island employer.

“Employers can grow their work force at a time when they may be a little hesitant to do so, knowing they can take the time to prepare individuals to do skilled jobs without the upfront costs of training those new workers,” said Representative McNamara. “And this opens up so many opportunities for individuals who are collecting to find work without taking a further financial hit.”

“This proposal is, I believe, a way to help companies and potential workers through these tough economic times,” he said. “There is no added cost to state government, because those individuals who are collecting while in a job-setting training programs would be collecting unemployment benefits anyway. And clearly it would be better for them to move from unemployment to a job than into other kinds of costly state services.”

Representative McNamara said his proposal will build on the existing Work Share program. That program is offered to private employers as an alternative to layoffs by letting companies keep all their employees on the payroll at reduced hours and salaries and letting those employees collect a percentage of unemployment benefits for up to 52 weeks.

The McNamara bill, (2011-H5041) , is patterned on law enacted in New Hampshire last year. He said that, as with the New Hampshire program, his legislation will make the program voluntary, with the training placements authorized by the state. He said that the New Hampshire experience has been positive and that both employers and employees have found it a comfortable arrangement, “almost like taking a test drive.”

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Labor. Among the co-sponsors are Rep. John A. Savage (R-Dist. 65, East Providence), Rep. Jan. P Malik (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren), Rep. Raymond E. Gallison Jr. (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth) and Rep. Samuel A. Azzinaro (D-Dist. 37, Westerly).

For more information, contact:
Randall T. Szyba, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-2457