State Government

Time to look for work, State tells unemployment collectors

Time to go back to work, State tells collectors of state and federal pandemic-related unemployment benefits

The Vermont Department of Labor announced today that the work search requirement for unemployment claimants will be reinstated beginning Sunday, May 9 for all claimants in regular UI and specific claimants in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. Claimants will be required to conduct three qualified job contacts for each week they claim unemployment insurance.

Vermont’s work search requirement has been suspended since the start of the pandemic in order to ensure the health and safety of the Vermont workforce and business community. In addition to the suspension of the work search requirement, the legislature took action to expand eligibility requirements for claimants and provide relief to employers throughout the duration of the State of Emergency. Those protections still exist today and will play a role in the modified work search requirement.

“Employers have been struggling to find workers and we know there are thousands of jobs available across the state, offering very competitive wages. With over 20,000 individuals collecting regular unemployment, we are hopeful that reinstating the work search will encourage claimants to take advantage of the job opportunities available in Vermont,” said Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington.  The unemployment rate (February, 2021) was 3.1% in Vermont, compared to 6.2% nationwide.

The current maximum weekly benefit amount is $531. This amount applies only to regular unemployment insurance benefits, and does not apply to federal programs enacted in response to COVID-19. According to a law signed in March by President Biden, federal UI payments of $300/week are extended through September.

The following is excerpted from the DOL statement:

Am I required to accept a job offer?

You are required, as a condition of receiving unemployment benefits, to apply for and accept an offer of suitable work. If you fail, without good cause, to either apply for or accept an offer of suitable work, you will be disqualified for benefits and may be required to repay benefits you received. Although you may be looking for full time work, a refusal of suitable part-time work could also result in a disqualification.

What is “Suitable Work?”

Suitable work is generally defined as work that you are qualified to do based on your skills, work experience, and employment history and that pays at least the prevailing wage rate for the type of job in your local labor market.

Prior training and/or experience, prior earnings, length of employment, prospects of securing work in your local labor market in your customary occupation, the distance to work from your home, physical fitness requirements of the job, the degree of risk involved to your health, safety, or morals are factors involved in deter-mining if a job is suitable.

The longer you are unemployed, the more intensive and expansive your work searches should become. A job paying less than the last one you held will gradually become more suitable the longer you are unemployed.

What if I can’t go back to work due to childcare or virtual learning?

If you are unable to return to work due to childcare or because your child’s school is currently providing virtual instruction, you are exempt from completing the work search, and should indicate this on the work search portion of the online weekly claim.

Categories: State Government

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