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Changes In Vermont’s Unemployment Guidelines A Focus Of Governor’s Weekly Briefing

Vermont Statehouse
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Vermont Statehouse (file)

Vermont is ending the suspension on the work search requirement for those on unemployment. That was a key topic during the governor’s regular COVID briefing today.
Before the pandemic people claiming unemployment were required to look for work each week and notify the Department of Labor what jobs they had applied for.  During the pandemic the work search requirement was suspended due to safety concerns. State Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington announced the suspension is being lifted.  “The VT Forward Plan is in place and moving forward and vaccine distribution is continuing at a steady pace. Vermont is moving forward to more normalcy because our health officials feel it is safe to do so. This means more opportunities for Vermonters to return to work and we know employers are actively seeking people to fill open jobs. With all of this in mind the department is announcing the reinstatement of the work search requirement beginning the week of May 9th. This means individuals still collecting unemployment benefits will be required to conduct a standard work search each week and claimants will need to report those job contacts to the department the following week when they file their claim in order to remain eligible for unemployment benefits.”   

Republican Governor Phil Scott said a number of companies say they need qualified workers as the pandemic ebbs.  “It didn’t play a role in our decision. We’ve been waiting for the right time. You know the vaccination rates made a difference as well as trying to have schools go into more in-person learning. And all that coupled together with our case rates decreasing led us to believe this was the right time to reinstitute the work search requirement. But this isn’t something magical that’s automatically going to have people return to work. They still need to have some of those necessities like child care. And to be perfectly blunt there’s some who are perfectly content staying on unemployment assistance because of the $300 stipend.”

The U.S. Census released its 2020 results Monday. It shows Vermont’s population increased by just over 17,000,  a growth rate of 2.8 percent.  Governor Scott cited several initiatives that may be drawing new residents.  “We’ve been initiating a lot of different strategies over the last four years to try and bring more people into the state: remote workers for example, trying to make Vermont more affordable, keeping tax and fees from growing. I think that helped. And with the pandemic we’ve seen where there’s been an increase in real estate sales. And being the safest healthiest state in the country.  But it’s not enough. We need to increase that in order to work our way through the workforce challenges that we have here and to make Vermont more affordable and grow this economy.”

State officials were also quizzed over the abrupt closure of Koffee Kup, a chain of bakeries in the state, and changes in Vermont State Police policy preventing identification of a 16-year-old who was driving under the influence during a fatal motor vehicle accident.

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