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Official clears up confusing question on unemployment form

MONTPELIER — Tens of thousands of Vermonters have been laid off because of the business disruption caused by the coronavirus, and many of those making claims for unemployment insurance from the Vermont Department of Labor have run into a snag.
The claim form, which they fill out electronically online, requires that applicants answer “Yes” when asked if they are looking for work. But most if not all of those laid off recently expect to return to their employer when the state’s stay-at-home order is rescinded, making the “Yes” answer inaccurate.
On Friday the DOL assured Vermonters who have been laid off, furloughed, or had their hours reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic that they can be assured officials “feel secure” the workers do not have to seek work even though the forms they must fill out still insist they do so.
In response to question posed by the Independent, Department of Labor Communications and Outreach Coordinator Kyle Thweatt confirmed Vermonters in those situations could proceed with confidence in filling out their unemployment forms.
“The commissioner waived the work search requirement. Because of this, no individual is being directed to look for work, and claimants can feel secure in answering ‘YES’ to this question,” Thweatt wrote in an email. “We will hold claimants harmless, and once the department is in a position to reinstate the work search requirement, we will message that to claimants in advance of taking any adverse action.”
DOL Interim Commissioner Michael Harrington on March 25 in an executive order wrote, “All official work search requirements are suspended until further notice. This applies to all unemployment insurance claimants, not just those that have a return to work date.”
But DOL Unemployment Insurance applications still indicate applicants have a work search requirement, requiring applicants to click “Yes” when asked if they have been actively seeking work, even if they are still employed part-time.
Thweatt thus confirmed applicants can be confident on a weekly basis they will be not be misrepresenting their status by clicking “Yes,” at least they are notified otherwise by the DOL.

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