by Guy Page
Beginning this week, Vermont employers will pay higher unemployment insurance (UI) rates, while the maximum weekly benefit for unemployed workers will increase from $531 to $583 per week. Both outcomes are mandated by a law passed by the Legislature this year.
According to a July 1 press statement by the VT Dept. of Labor, the UI tax structure for Vermont’s “covered” employers is calculated annually and is adjusted to ensure solvency of the UI benefit trust fund. Under Act 51 of the 2021 legislative session, the tax rate calculation was adjusted in order to provide measured relief to employers. This adjustment ensured the UI tax schedule only increased by two levels, from Schedule I to Schedule III.
The two-level skip will increase UI rates from 11% to 50%, depending on the individual employer.
Employers were also provided relief from UI related benefit charges, which ensured that employers’ experience ratings were not disproportionately impacted due to the pandemic.
“The good news is that employers have made significant contributions to the UI trust fund over the course of the last 10 years ensuring that Vermont was able to weather this storm and not find itself in the situation of needing to borrow from the federal government. Now we must focus on rebuilding our fund while also limiting the burden we place on employers,” said Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington.
The Department of Labor originally proposed the freezing of the tax schedule and taxable wage base for an additional year to further support the economic recovery effort; however, those proposals were not supported by the Legislature.
The maximum Weekly Benefit Amount for claimants will also increase by $52 from $531 per week to $583 per week. The maximum WBA is set based on the state’s average weekly wage, which increased during 2020, as lower wage earners were more adversely impacted by the pandemic. Claimants who currently receive the maximum WBA will see their benefit increase for the benefit week ending July 10, 2021.
Unemployed workers also are eligible for the federal $300 weekly benefit, which expires Sept. 4. Gov. Scott has said he will not seek to stop that payment (as have some states’ governors), but will not allow the payment if extended by Congress.
Some information and wording drawn from July 1 VT Dept. of Labor press release.