Vermont Unemployment Benefits, Amount, Services & Filing

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The Vermont Department of Labor manages the state's unemployment insurance benefits. This program, funded by employers, offers financial assistance to workers who are currently out of work through no fault of their own. Vermont unemployed workers may be eligible for both state unemployment benefits and federal pandemic unemployment benefits. A Vermonter who is working or has worked in this state recently should get an overview of how these laws work.

State of Vermont UI Benefits

Vermont's unemployment insurance (UI) program helps employees who are temporarily out of work through no fault of their own. To be eligible for Vermont UI, a worker must also have earned enough wages in the state's base period to qualify for benefits.

Most states define the base period for UI benefits in the same way, and Vermont is no exception. These states, including Vermont, look to the claimant's recent work history immediately prior to filing the claim. They define the base period as the oldest four of the five calendar quarters completed before the individual filed their unemployment claim. A calendar quarter means three consecutive months, like January through March, or April through June.

Vermont pays its unemployed workers UI benefits on a weekly basis. The weekly benefit amount is determined by looking at wages during the individual's two highest earning calendar quarters of the base year divided by 25. The benefit amount is capped at a weekly maximum of $531 and a minimum of $73. Vermont offers up to 26 weeks of state unemployment benefits.

Federal Benefits Program

It's not every day that the federal government steps in to supplement the states' UI programs. Generally, the benefits are determined and regulated by the states. However, in unusual circumstances, like the shut-down of the country due to the the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government will step in.

In March 2020, soon after the pandemic was declared, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act intended to help workers who lost their jobs or income due to the coronavirus pandemic. The law expanded eligibility for UI benefits and supplemented the amounts and duration of state unemployment benefits.

The initial CARES Act added a supplemental payment of $600 per week in federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) benefits. It also increased the duration of state benefits by up to 13 weeks and opened UI eligibility to self-employed and gig workers under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.

Federal UI Programs Extended

The federal UI supplemental benefits programs were extended several times. The $600 weekly supplemental benefits were set to terminate on July 31, 2020. From that date through December 26, 2020, there were no supplemental federal payments.

But Congress amended the program in December, 2020, by the Continued Assistance Act (CAA). This provides a $300 per week benefit in addition to state-provided benefits running from December 26, 2020, to March 14, 2021. The supplemental payments were again extended through September 6, 2021, by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, signed into law by President Biden on March 11, 2021.

The CAA law that extended the benefit duration by 13 weeks was set to expire on December 31, 2020, but it also was extended to March 14, 2021, and, at the same time, increased benefits to 24 additional weeks. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 further increased the total number of benefits weeks available to Vermont residents to 70 weeks and extended the program through September 6, 2021.

Extension of UI Eligibility to the Self-Employed

The federal law that opened UI eligibility to self-employed and gig employees was set to expire on December 31, 2020. The CAA extended this program until March 14, 2021, and it was further extended by the American Rescue Plan of 2021 to September 6, 2021.

Unemployment Law in Vermont

In Vermont, employees who are out of a job can apply for regular unemployment insurance benefits from the state Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL receives and reviews the applications on a case-by-case basis, determining a claimant's eligibility based on legal standards. They determine eligibility for state benefits based on state law as modified by the federal pandemic unemployment laws.

To determine eligibility under either Vermont unemployment law or federal pandemic unemployment laws, a worker must file an unemployment claim with the DOL. The claimant is asked questions that help the agency determine their eligibility.

Vermont law requires that, to be eligible for state unemployment benefits, the worker must be unemployed through no fault or misdeeds of their own, is available to work and actively seeking employment, and has met the minimum earnings requirement during a base year.

Reasons for Job Loss in Determining Eligibility

What does it mean that the worker must be out of a job due to no fault of their own? The Vermont DOL looks to the reason a worker is out of a job in order to determine eligibility for UI benefits. If the worker was fired for doing bad things, such as stealing money or assaulting another worker, they are not eligible for UI.

Vermont divides misconduct into two categories: simple misconduct and gross misconduct. Simple misconduct is work-related conduct that substantially disregards the employer’s interests, like extreme carelessness, repeated absences or lateness, insubordination, or lying on a job application. Simple misconduct disqualifies the worker for claiming UI benefits for up to 15 weeks.

Gross misconduct can disqualify the worker permanently. This includes bad behavior like damaging company property, repeated use of profanity, insubordination or unprovoked workplace outbursts.

Good Cause for Quitting

But just because a Vermont worker was fired doesn't necessarily mean they were fired for misdeeds. For example, if an employee is fired because they did not have the training or skills to perform the work, they did not commit a misdeed and may be eligible for UI in Vermont.

Normally, quitting a job means that the worker determined they did not want to work. But if a worker had good cause for quitting, they may still be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits in Vermont. For example, if they quit because of unsafe working conditions, failure to be paid their salary, or even as the result of a serious medical problem, they may remain eligible for state UI benefits.

Federal Law Modifies Fault Rules

Vermont's fault requirements are modified by the federal laws. Under the federal pandemic UI legislation, a worker is given other, coronavirus-related reasons that allow them to quit work yet remain eligible for UI benefits. For example, if a worker gets the virus or might have been exposed to it, they can stop working and get UI benefits. Likewise, if a doctor advised the worker to stay home so they are not exposed to the virus or won't expose others, they remain eligible for benefits.

The federal law also allows a worker to get UI benefits if their employer shut down or cut back due to coronavirus; if they can’t work because they must care for a family member or other person they live with who is sick with coronavirus; or if they have to care for a child at home because the child's school or child care center is closed due to coronavirus.

Minimum Earnings Requirements

Under Vermont law, an employee is eligible for unemployment coverage only if they meet certain earnings requirements during a base period. Currently, the worker must have earned at least $2,386 in the highest paid quarter of the base period and, in the other three quarters, earned at least 40 percent of the highest paid quarter earnings.

The primary method of determining the base period used in Vermont is the same one used in most states: four consecutive three-month calendar quarters. To determine this base year, the DOL starts with the date on which the worker filed for UI benefits, then counts backward from there, identifying the last five complete calendars quarters before the unemployment insurance claim. The base year is the four earliest of these quarters.

Alternative Base Periods

However, Vermont offers three other alternative base periods for those who do not qualify during this base period. One uses the most recent four of the five calendar quarters as the base period, and another uses the most recent three of the five calendar quarters plus the current quarter. The last option is available only to those who have been receiving workers' compensation benefits because of temporary total disability.

Note that a Vermont worker will not be eligible for federal pandemic unemployment benefits unless they qualify financially for state benefits. That means that a failure to meet Vermont's financial earnings requirements for UI will disqualify the worker from both state and federal benefits.

Job Seeker Requirements

A worker cannot get state unemployment benefits in Vermont unless they are available to work and actively seeking work. A laid-off employee who is attending school full time, is incarcerated or who lacks transportation to get to a job will probably not be considered ready to work.

Vermont requires that an unemployment insurance claimant actively search for work each week in order to continue to get UI benefits. The worker must keep a log of their job contacts and search activities and make at least three job contacts per week. If they are offered a suitable job, they must accept it.

A job's suitability depends on factors like training and experience, prior earnings, health and physical fitness and similar issues. In Vermont, it is generally defined as work that a person is qualified to do, based on experience, history and skills, and which pays at least the prevailing wage in the region for that type of job.

Pandemic Unemployment Modifications

The Vermont state requirement that a UI claimant be available to work has been modified in some situations by the federal pandemic unemployment laws. Under the CARES Act, a worker need not seek work if they are ill from COVID-19, caring for someone who has COVID-19 or taking care of minor children because schools are closed. If they have been ordered not to leave the house by their doctor or by government order, they can also continue to collect UI without looking for a job.

Applying for Vermont UI

​A worker who wishes to apply for Vermont unemployment benefits can do so by phone or online. It is often helpful to first read and review the UI handbook published by the DOL about the process. They also offer step-by-step directions for filing a new claim, reopening existing claims and making weekly claims.

A worker will need to have personal and work information handy as they fill out the application. This includes personal information like Social Security number or Alien Registration number, as well as recent employment information. Detailed information about their last employment should include the employer's name and address, the dates of work, hours worked and wages. They will also need to reveal the reason they are no longer employed.

Calculating Vermont Benefits

A worker's UI benefit in Vermont is calculated by using the sum of their wages in the two calendar quarters of their base year in which they earned the most money. The DOL divides this by 45 to come up with the benefit amount. This must be between $73 and $531, the state's minimum and maximum weekly benefit. The more the worker earned in the highest calendar quarters of the base period, the higher their weekly benefit will be.

The federal pandemic legislation offers a worker approved for state UI benefits an additional $300 a week in supplemental pandemic UI benefits through September 6, 2021.

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