The unemployment claim process continues to frustrate more Vermont workers, many of whom have gone several weeks without seeing a benefits check in the mail or getting an answer from the call center.
The Free Press continues to receive calls and emails from Vermonters who have spent hours attempting to file claims each day, all the while concerned about their ability to meet their basic needs.
Below you will find answers to some of the most common questions we’ve received.The Free Press is waiting for a response from the Department of Labor to additional questions about the unemployment process. We will continue to follow up with the Department, and this story may be updated.
How can I reach someone at the Labor Department or get my claim filed?
People seeking to file their weekly claims can go online at labor.vermont.gov or call the Department’s automated phone service at (800) 983-2300. The phone line is open 24 hours on Sunday and from 5 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
For assistance on pressing or recurring issues, you can call the claimant assistance line at (877) 214-3332. The line additionally enables Vermonters to file retroactively for weeks that they have missed.
“Calling is the best method to reach the Department,” said Kyle Thweatt, communicatons and outreach coordinator for the Department of Labor, in an email.
I am experiencing problems with my Social Security Number (SSN) not being recognized. What should I do?
The Department of Labor recently released an article highlighting the reasons people may be experiencing an error stating that their Social Security Number is ‘not found’.
- Your claim is continuing to be processed. It may take up to 72 hours for your initial claim to be processed. (However, readers have called in saying they have waited weeks without confirmation.)
- You’ve already filed your claim. If you are intending to check the status of your claim, the claims portal may be bouncing out because the Department has already completed your claim.
- You’ve missed the deadline to file a claim for previous weeks. Many claimants continue to have trouble reaching the Department of Labor despite new attempts to distribute the volume of calls.
Is there an alternative automated system in the works to address the overflow of callers?
Some readers have called the claimant assistance line upwards of 400 times a day and have yet to hear back from someone.
“We are constantly working to expand capacity and decrease call volumes through a variety of methods, including the alphabetized structure,” said Thweatt.
In a news briefing on Wednesday, acting commissioner Michael Harrington stated the department is attempting to recode their mainframe system to allow claimants to self-file instead of contact the line directly.
“Our biggest concern obviously is the people who have applied in the past and have not received checks to date or received maybe one check and stopped receiving checks,” said Harrington.
A recoded mainframe could potentially allow claimants to file missed claims for previous weeks in a matter of days. In the meantime, the department is working to address older claims from early to mid-March.
When can I expect my unemployment claim to arrive?
Once an individual has submitted a weekly claim and it has been approved, the delivery of payment depends on which method was selected (direct deposit or paper check), Thweatt explained.
“Typically, direct deposit can take a day or two to process and mailed checks would be dependent on USPS. Payments are being processed daily.”
As of April 10, the Labor Department has processed nearly 36,000 claims and issued 43,000 payments.
Are all staff callers equipped with the same information?
To address the high volume of calls, the Labor Department has expanded its staffing to include employees from Vermont Gas, Green Mountain Power and other state departments.
But the training required to educate a new employee on the mainframe system that the Department uses takes weeks, Thweatt said.
“We have brought on more staff just in the past week,” said Harrington in a news briefing.
I have more further questions about my claim
On its Facebook page, the Department of Labor is continuing to post answers to frequently asked questions. Below are a few questions that have been answered:
►You are unsure in which state to file your claim. The general guidance is that you should file your initial claim in the state you worked in within the past 18 months.
►You are unsure what to select for the weekly claim question, “Did you look for work as directed during the week ending ____?” The work search requirement for unemployment benefits is temporarily waived, meaning that your response to this question will not impact your eligibility. The Labor Department is recommending you select either option and continue with the questions.
►You recently quit a job and were supposed to start a new job, but your new employer has pushed back the start date and you are unsure how to file. “You should select the old employer in the Employment History section of the initial claim form and select “Quit” as the reason for filing.”
►Your employer has temporarily closed OR you have been asked by your employer to quarantine, and you are unsure how to fill out the “Reason for filing” in the initial UI claim form. You should select “Laid Off” as your answer.
Questions that we are waiting on a response for:
- Is the department aware of “wages in lieu of notice” issues halting unemployment benefits? (If an employer paid you for the remainder of the week that you were laid off, it may be impacting your unemployment claim).
This story may be updated.
Contact Ethan Bakuli at (802) 556-1804 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @BakuliEthan.
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