Vermont scrambles to process “unprecedented” rush of unemployment claims

Coronavirus

The Vermont Department of Labor has received more unemployment claims in the past two-and-a-half weeks than it does in a typical year, and it’s put a strain on an already aging system.

Michael Harrington, the Labor Department’s interim commissioner, said nearly 15,000 Vermonters have submitted initial claims for benefits as the coronavirus outbreak has forced many Vermont businesses to close or scale back operations, leading to layoffs.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said recently that in more than 1,000 city residents lost their jobs due to the crisis.

“Vermont, just like many other states, has seen an increase that is unprecedented,” Harrington said. “We’ve doubled and tripled staff in our call center, we’ve set up supplementary lines, we’re also providing many of our forms online as well.”

But for some people scrambling to obtain benefits, it’s not enough. One Burlington resident said she was blindsided when she lost her job and is claimin unemployment benefits for the first time.

“Trying to get a hold of someone is like a lottery game,” one Burlington resident said. “Not having connection to unemployment does feel isolating, I sat at my computer for 2-3 hours just refreshing and trying to submit the form.”

The Labor Department says benefits are issued 6-14 days after a weekly claim is filed. Harrington is asking people to be patient as the department does what it can to meet the increased demand. He said it may take time, but that everyone who is eligible will receive their benefits.

“Just because you’re delayed on filing doesn’t mean you will miss out on benefits,” Harrington said. “If you can’t get through on Monday but you can get through on Thursday, that’s not going to delay you getting your benefits”

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