State leaders warn of expiring unemployment benefits

Local News

MONTPELIER – The Department of Labor is reminding Vermonters receiving unemployment insurance benefits about some upcoming changes to certain federal unemployment benefit programs.

That includes Extended Benefits (EB), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC).

PUA and PEUC, funded through the CARES Act, are set to expire at the end of the month, with the last payable week being the week ending December 26, 2020. The Department of Labor also expects Vermont will trigger off its Extended Benefits program in the coming weeks, due to a dropping unemployment rate.

It’s expected to leave thousands of Vermonters in a tough financial position, and Governor Phil Scott said he’s concerned due to a lack of action at the federal level. He expressed hope Friday that both parties will come to an agreement soon.

“I’m getting a little bit more optimistic over the last few days seeing this bipartisan group getting together in Congress to try and come up with some sort of compromise to get us at least some bridge funding between now and maybe a further stimulus when the new administration is sworn into office,” Scott said.

The relief proposal introduced in Washington this week is a $908 billion package that would seek to address unemployment, struggling businesses and state and local governments.

As Governor Scott mentioned, it’s a bipartisan effort, but there’s still been plenty of criticism.

Senator Bernie Sanders released a statement on Friday denouncing the bill as a “get-out-of-jail free card for companies that put the lives of their workers and customers at risk.”

Vermont Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington said people still waiting for benefits from earlier this year won’t be impacted by the program window closing.

“If you were filing for a week prior to December 26, we’re still able to make someone eligible for those weeks and issue payments for those weeks,” Harrington said. “So, just because somebody is going through an adjudication or an appeal doesn’t mean they will lose out on benefits as long as they’re determined eligible for weeks that occurred prior to the end of the program.”

State officials aren’t the only local leaders calling for immediate relief – Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said it’s been far too long since the last government relief package, and it’s hard for local government to meet the needs of its residents without federal assistance.

“That money is almost entirely spent, and economic conditions are again worsening,” Weinberger said. “We are in dire need of more federal aid to protect our workers, support our local business owners, to keep people in their homes, to deliver critical state and local services and much more.”

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