Unemployment Benefits in Response to COVID-19 Coronavirus

Translations:  Af Soomaali / Somaliالعربية / Arabicမြန်မာစာ / BurmeseIkirundi / KirundiKiswahili / Swahiliनेपाली / NepaliFrançais / French. Translations supported by the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Video: Changes to unemployment benefits and eligibility as more Vermonters get offers to return to work. Watch the video on Facebook. On Thursday, August 13, Vermont Legal Aid attorney Kelli Kazmarski talked about changes such as: the ending of the $600/week in federal unemployment benefits; what happens to unemployment benefits when you are not able to return to work for reasons like dependent care or health/safety concerns; and issues with overpayments of benefits.

 

Updated on 9/23/2020 at 1 p.m.

Are you having trouble with your unemployment claim and not receiving benefits? 

Members of the Vermont legislature have access to a new tool that lets them contact the Department of Labor to try to resolve issues for people living in their districts. If you are having a problem with your claim for unemployment benefits, contact your local representative or senator. Find out who they are and how to contact them.

If you lost your job or had your hours cut due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, you probably can get some help. You can apply for benefits even if your employer says not to. Employers do not make decisions about unemployment benefits — the state does.

Am I eligible for unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 crisis?

You should apply if you:

  • were laid off or let go

  • were furloughed

  • had your hours cut

  • were hired but couldn’t start due to COVID-19

  • had to leave work to care for a child whose school or childcare center closed due to COVID-19

  • had to leave work to care for a household member diagnosed with COVID-19

  • had to quarantine under doctor’s orders

  • were diagnosed with COVID-19 or have symptoms and need diagnosis

  • cannot work due to stay-at-home orders

  • asked your employer to work remotely for health reasons and your employer said "no"

  • left work because your employer was not following safety guidelines and was exposing you to an unreasonable risk of getting COVID-19.

If you can't work because you are in quarantine, sick, caring for a family member who is sick, or caring for a child, you should check whether you are eligible for Vermont earned sick time and federal COVID-19 paid leave. Do this before applying for unemployment. See our page about the new federal paid leave law.

Remember, it doesn’t matter if your employer says “you’re not laid off” or “you’re not furloughed.” The state decides whether the reason you left work qualifies you for unemployment, not your employer.

Am I eligible even if I’m a “gig worker,” self-employed, freelancer or an independent contractor?

Yes! If you are self-employed, an independent contractor or freelancer, you could be eligible if you meet the other criteria listed above.

Visit this Department of Labor web page to learn how to apply.

Note: Has your small business applied for a "Paycheck Protection" SBA loan or economic injury disaster loan? Does this funding allow you to maintain regular hours? If yes, then you probably can't get unemployment under any of the new programs.

What if I didn’t meet the minimum work history requirements this year?

Yes! Even if you do not have significant work history you may be able to get unemployment benefits during this time.

Am I eligible if I am not a citizen of the United States?

Generally, if you are not a United States citizen, you are eligible for unemployment benefits if you have a valid authorization to work in the United States right now and you had one when you were working. The National Employment Law Project has an overview of what we know, and don’t know, about your eligibility for unemployment benefits in this time.

Undocumented immigrants cannot get unemployment benefits.

Do you live in Vermont? Do you have questions about your immigration status or authorization to work in the United States? Contact AALV or the South Royalton Legal Clinic.

How much money can I expect to receive every week?

Typically the state figures your weekly benefit amount using this formula. The maximum benefit is $513/week.

If you are now eligible for unemployment because of COVID-19 (for example, because you don’t have much work history or you are an independent contractor), Vermont is still writing the rules for how your benefit will be calculated. The amount will range between $191/week (half of the state average unemployment benefit in the last quarter) and $513/week.

If you file a weekly claim you will also get an extra $600 of “pandemic unemployment compensation” every week. This money is available until July 31, 2020. You can get it even if you are just receiving partial unemployment.

How long can I get unemployment insurance benefits during the crisis?

If you are eligible, you can get unemployment benefits for up to 39 weeks or until December 31, 2020 — whichever comes first.

What if I already used up my 26 weeks of unemployment this year?

If you file another claim and you are eligible, you can get another 13 weeks of extended unemployment benefits. Be sure to re-file to apply for this.

What information do I need to apply?

Look at the list at the bottom of this page on the Vermont Department of Labor website. Be ready with as much information as you can.

An adjudicator from the Department of Labor may contact you and/or your employer if:

  • information is missing, or

  • you and your employer disagree about any of these issues.

Do your best to help the adjudicator find the information they need. Tell them if you do not have access to any of this information.

How do I apply?

In Vermont, initial claims for unemployment compensation must be done by phone or online. Call 1-877-214-3332 or fill out the online form here

Before you contact the Department of Labor to make a claim, gather information from their list of required information. The Department of Labor is handling a lot of phone calls. However, as of September, the department has hired more people to answer phones so wait times should be down to 30 seconds or less.

If you are an independent contractor, self-employed or a “gig” worker, visit this Department of Labor web page to learn how to apply.

How long do I have to wait?

At this time, the Department of Labor doesn't have a waiting period for unemployment benefits.

In normal times, it usually takes about two weeks to get your first payment. Because of the pandemic, you may have to wait longer if there is an issue with your claim. It’s not possible to know exactly when you will get your first payment.

Do I have to do anything after I become eligible?

Keep filing your claim every week that you are not able to work or your hours were cut.

Until the Department of Labor says otherwise, you do not need to prove that you are searching for work. The Department of Labor does not want people to endanger their health or the health of others during the coronavirus pandemic. You do not need to show that you got job interviews, attended job fairs, and so on.

How will this affect my other benefits, housing and health care?

Do you get public assistance such as 3SquaresVT (food stamps), fuel assistance, General Assistance, Reach-Up or SSI? If so, you have to report the money you get from unemployment to each of those programs. Generally you should report the money within 10 days of when you start to get unemployment. Your other benefits may be reduced or stopped while you are getting unemployment, depending on how much you get in unemployment benefits. You should also report to each of these programs when you are no longer eligible for unemployment benefits. That way you can get your 3SquaresVT, fuel assistance, General Assistance, Reach-Up and SSI back.

If you have subsidized housing, you should report your unemployment benefits to:

  • your landlord (if you live in a subsidized building), or
  • your housing authority (if you get rental assistance such as a Section 8 voucher).

If you live in Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) multi-family housing, HUD counts unemployment benefits as income. But HUD will not count the 2020 stimulus checks or the extra $600/week in 2020 unemployment benefits from the federal government.  Your share of the rent may go up while you get unemployment benefits. You should also report when your unemployment benefits stop, so that your rent share goes down again.

Medicaid also counts this unemployment money, except for the $600/week in “pandemic unemployment compensation.” You should report your unemployment money to Vermont Medicaid. We think most people should be able to get the extra unemployment benefits and keep their Medicaid. If you get a letter that says your Medicaid is changing or ending, contact us at the Office of the Health Care Advocate (HCA). Call 1-800-917-7787 to speak with a health care advocate, or fill out our Help Request Form. The HCA is a free service for Vermonters.

What happens if I’m denied?

You have 30 days from the date on the written notice to appeal. But some denials may get resolved without an appeal. The Department of Labor is dealing with a lot of applications right now, and about half of them are receiving initial denials because the system does not have enough information. Before appealing, you can try contacting the Department of Labor to see if you are one of the people who will likely have their claim resolved.

We can help you decide whether or not you need to appeal your unemployment denial. Fill out our form and we will call you back. Your information will go to Legal Services Vermont, which screens requests for help for both Vermont Legal Aid and Legal Services Vermont. You can also call us at 1-800-889-2047.

If you do have to appeal, make sure you send your appeal notice in writing to the Department of Labor within 30 days of the date on your denial or "determination letter." Tell them you want to appeal. You may send your appeal by US Mail, email, fax or drop it off. However you send it, it has to be within 30 days of the date of the denial letter. See the Department of Labor’s website for details on what to include in your appeal letter. Keep a copy of your letter.

If you’d rather use an appeal form, you can use the UI Claimant Appeal form. Fill it out and save a copy for yourself.

An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will review your claim and the denial and you will have a phone hearing. See the back of your Notice of Hearing or the Department of Labor’s website for details on the appeals process.

Lost Wage Assistance (LWA) Program

The Lost Wage Assistance (LWA) program is a new program set up in August which provides federal supplemental unemployment benefits to certain Vermonters who:

  1. were eligible for either a regular unemployment or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Weekly Benefit Amount (WBA) of at least $100 during the first three weeks of August, and
  2. can or have already certified that the reason for their unemployment during those weeks of August was related to COVID-19.

This is an additional benefit in the amount of $300 per week for eligible claimants who meet the above criteria for the weeks ending August 1, August 8 and August 15. If more funding becomes available, the program may be extended beyond those weeks.

How do I apply for LWA if I was receiving regular unemployment in August?

  1. Check for an email from the Deptartment of Labor about LWA. Check your inbox, spam box and junk email boxes as well.
  2. Follow the prompt in the email to certify that your unemployment in August was for COVID-related reasons. You should get a follow-up email about your eligibility.
  3. If you did not get an email and you meet the criteria listed above, or if you do not have access to internet, contact the unemployment (UI) call center.

Unemployment Claims for Individuals

  • Unemployment call center web page
  • Establish an Initial Claim: 1-877-214-3330 or 1-888-807-7072 (M-F 8:15am - 4:30pm, Sat-Sun closed)
  • File Weekly Claim: 1-800-983-2300 (Automated, 24 hours Sun, 5am-4:30pm M-F)
  • Claimant Assistance: 1-877-214-3332 (Mon-Sat 8am - 5:30pm, Sun closed)
  • Supplemental Assistance Line: 1-888-807-7072 (M-F 8:15am - 4:30pm, Sat-Sun closed)
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Hotline: 1-877-660-7782 (Mon-Sat 8am - 5:30pm, Sun closed)

How do I apply for LWA if I was getting Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) in August?

You do not need to do anything if you were getting at least $100 per week of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) during August. In order to receive PUA you already certified that your unemployment was related to COVID-19. The Department of Labor will be in touch with you regarding LWA. You do not have to take action.

Updated: Sep 23, 2020