Waiting for DOL

Another Vermont Daily Off The Cuff Editorial

This morning a former lawmaker from the Islands asked me about the status of unemployment payments. In a VPR interview today, acting labor commissioner Michael Harrington said payments to almost half of the 80,000 UI applicants are hung up for one reason or another. In another interview he said 20,000-30,000 people have been “deemed eligible to receive benefits, but aren’t receiving payments because the system is overwhelmed.”

“Deemed eligible.” But still unpaid. Upwards of 30,000 (and who really knows). On the one hand, I sympathize with the flesh-and-blood people responsible at the State. Apparently DOL has an ancient mainframe computer and the human resources there are moving heaven and earth to compensate. And with unprecedented low unemployment, why spend scarce resources on a new computer? Like the oldest firetruck in the local fire department, can’t we make it last another year? No-one saw the pandemic coming.

Unemployment offices are like baseball umpires. They only get our attention when something goes wrong. When it does, in no time there’s a fat middle-aged guy in a manager’s uniform kicking dirt on the umpire’s shoes.

On the other hand….. Most Vermonters outside of the State House bubble don’t think much about state government. They may raise an occasional eyebrow at the Legislature’s latest politically correct scheme to spend taxpayer money, but most of the time their day-to-day needle is set firmly on “Apathy.”

Right now is not most times. Right now perhaps tens of thousands of Vermonters – no-one knows how many – are going through the couch cushions looking for quarters and hoping the check will come today. They’re staying inside, they’re wearing their masks, they’re trying to teach their kids algebra, they are doing all the right things and they are wondering why this well-staffed, well-paid State Government can’t deliver a single. darn. check.

11:20 AM Update: Gov. Scott just said UI cases not cleared within a few days will get a check for $1200. Let’s hope that works out. And he’s talking about reopening the economic spigot, “a quarter turn at a time.” And speaking of quarters — your gym bag may have a few, too.

  • Guy Page