House launches tool for Vermonters unable to reach DOL for unemployment needs

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House launches tool for Vermonters unable to reach DOL for unemployment needs

Mon, 04/27/2020 - 1:37pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine The Vermont House of Representatives launched a tool this week to assist Vermonters unable to get through to the Department of Labor to resolve issues surrounding Unemployment Insurance and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims. 

In a statement, House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) said:

“Legislators are hearing concerns from Vermonters across the state about their inability to reach the Vermont Department of Labor via phone to resolve their unemployment claim issues. We are all deeply concerned that many Vermonters - many of whom live paycheck to paycheck - have gone six weeks without income. Vermonters need help now. 

“I deeply appreciate that Governor Scott and Treasurer Pearce jumped in last week and sent $1200 relief checks to Vermonters who applied, but had not yet been approved, for unemployment insurance. Legislators are hearing from community members that many people are still waiting. That is why Representative Jill Krowinski and I developed a way for legislators to assist Vermonters and gather information for the overwhelmed Department of Labor in this time of great need. Vermonters with outstanding case issues can contact their legislators. With very basic information, your representative can help you get through to the Department of Labor to resolve your claim issues. 

“We very much appreciate the Department of Labor employees and the Administration working so hard to resolve the backlogged cases. They had an impossible job from the start. Processing claims in a timely fashion is a Herculean task on a 30-year-old computer system when unemployment jumps overnight from 2% to 20%. We also know that Vermonters are struggling, afraid, and without the savings or emergency supports needed to sustain their families for weeks on end. The Administration is supportive of legislators serving as a liaison for their constituents and we are excited to expand our constituent service to Vermonters in this way.

“Vermonters: please contact your legislator if you need assistance getting Unemployment Insurance or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. We are here to help you. Legislator contact information is available at https://legislature.vermont.gov/.”

Acting Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington said today at the governor's press briefing that those seeking regular UI benefits or the new pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA) benefits should first go through the state's usual filing procedure (https://labor.vermont.gov/) before reaching out to their legislator. He said he wouldn't want to create a separate bottleneck for those needing claims.

Governor Scott added that if necessary a second wave of emergency checks could go out if warranted to those still waiting for some money if a logjam persisted.

The state sent out $1,200 "pre-payments" a week ago to cover UI filers whose cases had not been fully processed, typically because of some issue with the claim. Harrington said they are still working through some of those cases.

House Majority Leader Jill Krowinski (D-Burlington), who designed the tool, added, “Vermonters need help. The Department of Labor phone lines are swamped and Vermonters are frustrated that they’re calling hundreds of times per day without getting through to resolve their claims. The web forms are putting up error messages and constituents need a place to turn. I’m excited to launch this tool this week so House members can provide a direct line from their constituents to the Department of Labor. It’s past time for these issues to be resolved and for Vermonters to get relief.”

Source: Speakerof the House 4.27.2020