The Vermont Department of Labor is scrambling to find alternative safety nets for 650 Vermonters who lost their federal unemployment benefits at the end of 2013. The state lost about $200,000 in weekly funding in federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation when the benefits expired at the end of last year.
Across the country, about 1.3 million Americans lost their unemployment benefits when the program expired at the end of 2013.
Vermont Commissioner of Labor Annie Noonan said managers at the department’s 12 regional offices have been instructed to pull out all the stops trying to find additional aid for the 650 Vermonters who lost an average of slightly more than $300 per week.
“We reached out early to those 650 people and said ‘Look, this is what’s happening in Congress, they’re talking about cutting those benefits. Heads up,’” Noonan said. But beyond a heads up, the department is also looking for ways those Vermonters might qualify for other forms of public help.
The message to the Department of Labor’s regional managers, Noonan said, was “Take a look at every single person one-on-one to really think about ‘Are there other supports that they may qualify for?’”
Federal funds available through the Workforce Investment Act, Veterans benefits or disability benefits may be available for some of the 650 Vermonters who lost benefits at the end of the year.
“We let people know early on,” Noonan said. “We said to them ‘We are here for you, come into the [regional] offices, we are going to work with you to figure out what you need.’”
Noonan said officials haven't yet discussed policy options for the state to possibly cover the gap in funding, but her department is closely following developments in Washington as federal lawmakers work on legislation that may reinstate the funding.