Vermont to reinstate work search requirement for unemployment benefits

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MONTPELIER – The Vermont Department of Labor said Tuesday that people collecting unemployment will once again be required to actively search for work in order to qualify for benefits.

The work search requirement was waived in March 2020, but will go back into effect on May 9.

Vermonters who are out of work will have to fill out at least three job applications a week to collect unemployment. That ‘job contact’ requirement could also be met by contacting a former employer to inquire if they can bring you back to work, or contacting an employer via phone, in person, or email with a formal request for hire.

“Vermont is moving forward to more normalcy because our health officials believe it is safe to do so,” said Michael Harrington, Vermont Department of Labor Commissioner. “This means more opportunities for Vermonters to return to work or seek new opportunities safely, and we know employees are actively seeking people to fill open jobs.”

There’s still certain exemptions to Vermont’s work search requirement, including those who are unable to return to work due to childcare, those advised by a doctor not to return due to a high-risk health condition, or someone who is quarantining.

Governor Phil Scott said he’s not expecting the changes to move the needle very much when it comes to Vermont’s longstanding workforce dilemma.

“You know, this isn’t something magical that’s going to have people automatically return to work, they still need necessities like childcare,” Scott said. “I see this as being part of the solution.”

Last year, the Vermont Legislature took action to expand eligibility requirements for unemployment insurance and provide relief to employers throughout the ongoing State of Emergency. Those protections still exist despite the work search change, and the Department of Labor says the protections will play a role in the modified work search requirement.

Specific information on the work search requirement can be found online at labor.vermont.gov.

The Department of Labor will be hosting virtual town hall events so Vermonters can learn more about work search, as well as programs and resources to help with reemployment.

State officials also offered an update on Vermont’s vaccination progress Tuesday, noting that the state has also made progress in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

As of Tuesday, 59.3 percent of Vermonters had received at least one dose of the vaccine.

“These are all indicators that we are doing the right things right now, from general prevention to outdoor activities, to — most importantly — getting vaccinated,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine. “But this does not mean our work is done here. We still need to keep it up, knowing those variants of the virus are still around us, looking for any opportunity to spread to the next person.”

Dr. Levine also gave his thoughts on the CDC’s new mask guidance, which allows people to go maskless outdoors as long as they aren’t in a large crowd.

“The new mask guidance is a common-sense public health step,” said Dr. Levine. “The CDC, like the State of Vermont, is taking well-modulated, science-based steps in developing its recommendations. It strikes the right balance for this point in the nation’s pandemic response – allowing greater flexibility connected with vaccination status.”

Governor Scott said he will take the CDC’s new guidance into account when considering changes to Vermont’s guidance, and will review the CDC’s recommendations in the context of the Vermont Forward Plan.

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