Unemployment Claims Pose Challenges

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Unemployment claims in Vermont have nearly doubled over the past year and new layoffs are making headlines every couple of days, including large layoffs at IBM this week. The heavy demand has led to bottlenecks in filing unemployment compensation claims, and lots of frustration for newly out-of-work Vermonters. And officials say that unless something changes, the fund that pays out unemployment benefits will run out of money in a year, forcing the state to borrow to meet its obligations. We talk with Vermont Labor Commissioner Patricia Moulton Powden about the current situation, and about the future of unemployment compensation in Vermont. (Listen)

Also on the program, Valley News reporter John Gregg fills us in on how the economic downturn is affecting the Upper Valley’s two largest employers, Dartmouth College and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. (Listen)


From Michael in Cambridge
I am a self-employed carpenter, and I have not had any work since the
holidays. I would like to know how you figure in people like me to
your unemployment numbers. If you include people like me, aren’t these
numbers even higher? Also, I have been an employee for most of my
life and have paid into the unemployment fund all this time. Because
I am relatively recently self-employed Why don’t I qualify for any benefits?

From Bill in Corinth
I would like to point out that this unfortunate comment of Commissioner
Powden’s was included several days later in an article quoting the department’s seven helpful tips for contacting unemployment.
It appears to be a policy attitude, not just an off the cuff remark. This recession has been a long time coming. Why didn’t the department prepare?

From Annie in Brookfield
There are many people in Vermont who are not eligible for unemployment
benefits as it now stands: self-employed carpenters, contract workers,
adjunct teachers, small-business owners; when these people are out of
work they are totally on their own. What recourse do these people have? Is there a way to provide assistance to people in this category? Is there a way to remedy this? More and more Vermonters are finding themselves in this category, and the unemployment rate does not in the least reflect these people.

From Kathleen in Rutland
Could the state of Vermont and the Governor step it up in leadership in
helping business owners in trouble by being proactive? Why not make it more beneficial in tax advantages for employers to cut employees’ hours rather than laying people off?

From Brian
It sounds like people that receive severance packages can also receive unemployment. If the fund is running out of money, perhaps the people the get severance should not qualify for unemployment until the severance, as if income equal to the unemployment benefits, has been exhausted.

From Mike in Middlebury
I am concerned about raising the Unempolyment Insurance tax rates (or wage base) on employers who are currently struggling. We have used the Short Time compensation program successfully in the past and have paid back more into the system than the original benefits. Although STC as a humane ption, it is going to be too expensive to consider. We’d have to
decrease work schedules and force employees to go without
compensation for the lost time.


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