Vermont Business Magazine The Vermont Department of Labor has been informed by the US Department of Labor that Vermont has officially ‘triggered off’ of the federally-funded unemployment insurance program known as ‘Extended Benefits’.
Governor Phil Scott and Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington have been saying for months that the unemployment rate, on which this decision is based, is artificially low because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Vermont's October unemployment rate of 3.2 percent is only one-tenth higher than the pre-pandemic rate last winter.
They maintain that the actual Vermont rate is in the 5-8 percent range.
They are also pleading with Congress to extend the PUA pandemic unemployment benefits to the self-employed that will end the day after Christmas.
For that program, which is separate from the regular UI benefits, Congress could either enact another program or simply allow Vermont and other states to use their existing unemployment trust funds.
Vermont has about $250 million in its trust fund.
There are about 8,000 Vermonters in the PUA program and about 12,000 in the regular extended benefits program.
As for the regular UI extended benefits, the Vermont DOL received notification on Friday evening, December 11, 2020, from the U.S. Department of Labor that, based on the household survey data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau, Vermont’s official unemployed population has dropped below the threshold for the Extended Benefits program.
According to the notification from the U.S. Department of Labor, the final benefit week of the program will be the week ending Saturday, December 19, 2020.
Vermont becomes one of more than two dozen states that have seen Extended Benefits end in the past few months. Based on the Department’s most recent report, there were 885 individuals who filed in the Extended Benefits program for the week ending December 5, 2020.
As a result of the Extended Benefits ending, the maximum number of benefit weeks available to claimants has decreased from 52 to 39 weeks, further impacting claimants moving through the system.
Governor Phil Scott today issued the following statement on the U.S. Department of Labor decision to end benefits to struggling Vermonters:
“Last night, at 5:52 p.m., the U.S. Department of Labor notified us via email that it would be cutting unemployment benefits to Vermont families. This decision comes at the height of a global pandemic, the middle of the holiday season and at the start of what will be a long winter.
“For weeks, my Administration has called on the federal government to accept the bleak reality states are facing in combating this crisis and to act in support of its citizens, who were forced into unemployment through no fault of their own. Instead, it appears it is turning its back on them and we now need Congress to step up to fix this.
“While we’re thankful for the support we’ve received from Vermont’s congressional delegation, we hope they can persuade their colleagues to put people over politics and come to an agreement on relief funding that extends wage replacement programs and overturns the unwillingness of the bureaucracy to do the right thing as we work to defeat COVID-19.”
“We are extremely disappointed that the federal government has refused to recognize the real and distinct humanitarian crisis that this pandemic has created and instead is choosing to use outdated methodology resulting in benefits being cut for struggling Vermonters,” said Commissioner Harrington. “Thousands of families are relying on these benefits to simply survive and the Scott Administration has been calling for the federal government and Congress to act to prevent this inevitability for weeks. We will continue to push for federal action and flexibility so states can continue providing the necessary support for families.”
The Department of Labor’s Workforce Development team has local job center specialists across the State that stand ready to provide career counseling to all Vermonters. Access re-employment resources, such as work search assistance, virtual workshops, tips on resume development and interview skills, by connecting directly with a local job center specialist at https://labor.vermont.gov/workforce-development.
Source: MONTPELIER, Vt – VTDOL. Governor. 12.12.2020