By Fred Thys/VTDigger
Federal benefits run out on Sept. 4, which means that people collecting unemployment (UI) benefits will no longer receive the extra $300 a week they have been getting.
Vermont Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington said in a video interview Friday that about 14,000 Vermonters are collecting UI benefits.
Vermonters who have exceeded the 26 weeks of UI paid by the state may lose all their UI benefits Sept. 4, unless Vermont uses federal money it has already received to keep paying benefits.
“We need to be prepared for the potential outcome of these benefits coming to an end,” Harrington said.
He said the state is using emails, direct calls and postcards to inform people that some or all their benefits will run out, and encouraging them to apply for jobs and retraining.
Harrington said the Vermont job board currently lists 9,000 open jobs.
The self-employed can expect to lose all their UI benefits after Sept. 4, according to the Vermont Dept. of Labor. President Joe Biden has urged states with stubbornly high UI rates to keep making payments to people who have been unemployed for a long time, but Vermont is not one of those states. It has one of the lowest UI rates — 3% for July, down a tenth of a percent from June.
As some Vermont employers begin to require vaccines and others masks, Harrington said his office is paying close attention to the rights of workers to apply for UI if they are dismissed for refusing to follow the mandates.
“We are having these conversations in the department because we know it is going to come up,” Harrington said.
Harrington said the labor department usually follows decisions that the courts have made in labor disputes, but there is little to no case law on whether employers may dismiss employees for not following vaccine or mask mandates.
He said the department would probably look at the reasons an employee gave for not wearing a mask or getting a vaccine. “We do know employers can mandate masks, can mandate vaccines,” Harrington said.