Some legislators have blamed Michael Harrington for not notifying them sooner that federal officials were likely to find a $25-a-week extra unemployment benefit illegal. In a hearing Tuesday, Harrington fought back, telling legislators they failed to make sure the benefit would withstand federal scrutiny.
Some Vermont state legislators had accused the Scott administration of sinking an unemployment benefit by not informing them sooner that the feds had objected.
Lawmakers say the administration failed to inform them back in June that the new benefit might not get federal approval. Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington defends his department’s actions.
Although the Legislature approved the extra money, the federal government says Vermont may not use federal funds that the state had planned to use.
About 14,000 Vermonters are collecting unemployment benefits. Most will lose supplemental federal benefits in a couple weeks.
The new law adds $25 per week in unemployment benefits, which is funded by a tax hike on businesses that will bring in $100 million in coming years.
The state advises claimants to log their search information online to receive their benefits, but some people are told their log-in information is invalid. The department isn’t sure how widespread the issue is.
The confusion over whether or not claims would be processed is the latest hurdle people seeking unemployment benefits have faced.
The legislators believed that without an increase in benefits, a controversial unemployment insurance bill would be doomed this year.
Vermonters who lost their jobs during the pandemic have faced one challenge after another. Trying to get financial support from the state government is one of them.
The widely cited figure may not have told the whole story, but state officials say the most important takeaway still stands: Women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
The House committee on Commerce and Economic Development voted Wednesday to remove bigger benefit checks for laid-off Vermonters who have children from a Senate bill.
Vermont’s cost of unemployment insurance fraud during the pandemic “will be in the millions by the time this is all said and done,” Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington said.
The department said Friday that 90% of recent initial benefit claims had been fraudulent, prompting the department to shut down the online filing system earlier in the week.