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New England News

Vermont Labor Commissioner Discusses Upcoming End Of Federal Pandemic Unemployment Programs

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Pat Bradley/WAMC
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The federal CARES Act expansion of unemployment benefits ends on September 6.  The Vermont Department of Labor is increasing its outreach to those receiving benefits to help them find work or educational opportunities before the program ends.

Vermont Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington held a roundtable discussion Friday on the implications of the upcoming loss of federal pandemic unemployment compensation programs. 

“We’re looking at what is essentially a 30 day countdown to the end of the federal benefit CARES Act programs ending," Harrington said. "Which include the PUA program which is the self-employed independent contractor program; the PEUC program – Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation - which provided extended benefits for claimants and also the FPUC or Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation. Initially at the start of the pandemic that was the $600 supplemental benefit. It’s now a $300 supplemental benefit on top of somebody’s base benefits.”

The Vermont Department of Labor’s role is to now help the nearly 9,000 Vermonters affected return to the workforce.  Harrington said the agency has begun direct outreach efforts to unemployment claimants.

“Over the past few weeks our workforce development staff has been making direct phone calls to unemployment claimants," Harrington explained. "But also we’ll be looking at a number of different opportunities not only over the next three to four weeks to continue to notify claimants that the end of their benefits may be coming but also to make them aware of what workforce development services are available and providing direct service to them and a number of different options for them to either work with our team to help connect them with an employer. Or even if they’re looking for skills development, you know, how to build the skills they want for whichever industry they’re looking to go into. The ultimate goal for us is to help as many of those folks transition back to work prior to the end of the programs.”

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics issued its monthly jobs report on Friday finding the national unemployment rate declined by a 0.5 percentage point to 5.4 percent in July, although it is higher than pre-pandemic levels. Commissioner Harrington is anticipating higher employment levels. 

“We know that across the country individuals are going back to work and we do know here in Vermont that individuals are going back to work," Harrington said. "So specific to us I think we fully expect that our numbers, especially in the federal extension program, that number seems to be consistently dropping. PUA not so much. And then UI certainly hoping to see that number tick down as well. We do know we’re in the height of a hiring season right now. As we head into the colder months we also may see an uptick again. But that’s more driven by seasonal employment than anything.”

The monthly state of Vermont labor data from July will be released August 20.

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