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Secretary Raimondo wants $300-a-week unemployment boost to stay in place through Labor Day

The former Rhode Island governor says fear of COVID and a lack of affordable childcare are bigger obstacles to hiring than the extra unemployment benefits

Vice President Kamala Harris, left, and Secretary of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo participate in a roundtable with women-led small business owners Wednesday, May 5, 2021, in Providence, R.I.
Vice President Kamala Harris, left, and Secretary of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo participate in a roundtable with women-led small business owners Wednesday, May 5, 2021, in Providence, R.I.Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

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LEADING OFF

Happy Thursday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. I’m Dan McGowan and after a day in the vice president’s motorcade, it’s clear to me that the best part of the job is never having to wait at red lights. Follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan or send tips to Dan.McGowan@globe.com.

ICYMI: Rhode Island was up to 149,197 confirmed coronavirus cases on Wednesday, after adding 252 new cases. The most-recent overall daily test-positive rate was 1.4 percent, and the first-time positive rate was 15 percent. The state announced one new death, bringing the total to 2,682. There were 125 people in the hospital, and 405,389 residents were fully vaccinated.

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US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Wednesday that she thinks the federal government should keep the $300-a-week boost in unemployment benefits in place until Labor Day, even as some small business owners say they’re struggling to find employees.

The enhanced unemployment benefits – people out of work initially received an additional $600 a week and now are getting $300 – have been a lifeline for many Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic, but some business owners have complained that people are choosing to not go back to work.

Raimondo acknowledged that the extra unemployment benefits are “definitely a factor,” but said “the data are pretty clear that the biggest reason folks aren’t going back is they’re still afraid because of COVID, especially in restaurant-type jobs. And the second thing is schools are still closed and child care is still an issue.”

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”We have to watch it and adjust it as we go, but at the moment, I don’t think that that’s the biggest problem,” Raimondo said.

The additional $300 in benefits is expected to run through Labor Day, and Raimondo said she doesn’t believe the Biden administration should alter that plan. But she said state governments can review their own programs and potentially make changes.

Montana plans to stop providing unemployed residents with the additional $300 in benefits at the end of June. Instead, the state is going to provide a one-time $1,200 bonus to workers who stay in their new jobs for at least four weeks.

THE GLOBE IN RHODE ISLAND

⚓ My latest column: It’s true that Vice President Kamala Harris didn’t need to visit Rhode Island on Wednesday. But there are worse ways to spend a day than listening to real people who run real businesses talking about the challenges they face. Read more.

⚓ Here’s a rundown of everything Vice President Harris did while she was in Rhode Island. Read more.

⚓ These are the books Vice President Harris bought at Books on Square. Read more.

⚓ What’s a mayor from New Jersey doing weighing in on a beach use issue in Narragansett? Read more.

⚓ Four peregrine falcon eggs in a box near the top of the “Superman” building are about to hatch. And you can watch live. Read more.

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MORE ON BOSTONGLOBE.COM

Health: Will Massachusetts achieve herd immunity from COVID-19? Read more.

Politics: It’s becoming increasingly clear that former president Donald Trump no longer needs the social media platforms that nurtured his devoted following and rocketed him to the presidency in 2016 to exert an iron grip over his party or keep his lies about election fraud in 2020 percolating among his base. Read more.

Crime: A federal corruption trial that has focused on payoffs orchestrated through “middlemen” or disguised as campaign contributions took a dramatic twist Wednesday as a local businessman testified that he placed a $75,000 cash bribe directly into the hands of Jasiel F. Correia II, then mayor of Fall River. Read more.

Sports: My colleague Ben Volin has an excellent look at new Patriots quarterback Mac Jones. Read more.

WHAT’S ON TAP TODAY

Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what’s happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

⚓ BIRTHDAYS: Rhode Map readers, if you want a friend or family member to be recognized on Friday, send me an e-mail with their first and last name, and their age. If you want a shout out on the new Globe Rhode Island Facebook page, send along their Facebook handle as well.

⚓ Governor Dan McKee will host his weekly COVID-19 press conference at 1 p.m.

⚓ Crossroads Rhode Island is hosting its 14th annual “Women Helping Women” networking event at 5:30 p.m. It’s a virtual event, and you can register here.

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⚓ There’s a Providence City Council meeting at 7 p.m. Here’s the agenda.

⚓ Do you ❤ Rhode Map? Your subscription is what makes it possible. We’ve got a great offer here.


Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.