When will I get my stimulus check? Do I qualify for unemployment? Answers for Vermonters

The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been felt across Vermont, as more workers and businesses seek financial assistance to weather employee layoffs and job closures. 

In the week ending March 28, the Vermont Department of Labor received over 14,000 initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits. According to interim Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington, the number of claims is expected to increase as the state moves toward double-digit unemployment figures.

Below is a guide to some of the benefits and financial assistance Vermonters could expect to receive in the next couple months.

Do I qualify for unemployment?

The Labor Department has expanded its eligibility requirements for receiving unemployment benefits, following the signing of bill H.742 into law by Gov. Phil Scott on March 30.

As outlined on the Labor Department’s website, those either temporarily laid off or forced to leave their job can apply for unemployment benefits under these conditions:

  • If your employer ceased business operations due to COVID-19.
  • If an executive order by the governor or president required your business to close.
  • If you have become sick or self-isolated due to COVID-19.
  • If you are at “unreasonable risk” of exposure to COVID-19 at work.
  • If you are caring for a family member who is sick or at risk of contracting COVID-19.
  • If you need to care for children who have their school or child care center closed.

Work search requirements, which typically require claimants to seek a job in order to receive benefits, have been temporarily suspended.

Will I receive a stimulus check?

The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) began to distribute economic impact payments to residents across the country on March 30.

In order to be eligible, residents must have filed tax returns for 2018 or 2019. From there, those who are eligible to receive the $1,200 payment include:

  • Individual tax filers with a gross income up to $75,000.
  • Married couples filing joint returns with a gross income up to $150,000. (Married couples who meet that guideline will receive a combined $2,400.)

Individuals and couples can receive an additional $500 for qualifying children.

Other taxpayers can expect to receive payments reduced by $5 for each $100 of income above the limits. For example, a individual taxpayer making $76,000 may receive $1,150.

Single tax fliers who make more than $99,000, as well as joint fliers with no children who make more than $198,000, are ineligible. 

Social Security recipients, who are not required to file a tax return, are eligible for the income payment.

When will I get my stimulus check?

Individuals and families who have already signed up for a direct deposit for tax refunds should expect to receive their stimulus check as early as April 16, according to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a White House news briefing on April 2.

“Within two weeks, the first money will be in people’s accounts,” Mnuchin said. 

For taxpayers who have not provided their direct deposit, the treasury department will create an online portal where people can submit their banking information and receive payments directly. As a last resort , checks will be mailed.

“In this environment, we don’t want people to get checks. We want to put money directly into their account,” Mnuchin said.

What if I’m a dependent? Am I able to receive a stimulus check?

People who are claimed as dependents on a parent or caregiver’s 2018 and/or 2019 tax return, including many college students, adult dependents with disabilities and elderly dependents, will not be able to receive their own separate stimulus check. 

Taxpayers receive an additional $500 payment for dependents under the age of 17.

What state assistance can workers receive?

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed by the federal government on March 27, expanding eligibility criteria for unemployment insurance benefits.

Vermont regularly provides individuals unemployment benefits up to $513 for 26 weeks. As part of the CARES Act, benefits are extended for an additional 13 weeks if a person has exhausted previous claims. 

Can I expect to receive further aid?

All unemployment claimants can receive an additional $600 for each weekly claim they file, as part of an Pandemic Unemployment Compensation administered through the CARES Act.

I am self-employed. Am I still eligible for unemployment benefits?

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program enables self-employed individuals, small business owners, “gig economy” workers, independent contractors, and others who may not typically qualify for unemployment insurance to receive benefits during the pandemic. 

The program is similar to the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program implemented after Hurricane Irene in 2011. The expected benefits for claimants under the PUA program is still being determined by the Labor Department, but benefits will be calculated based on claimants’ previous earnings.

Contact Ethan Bakuli at (802) 556-1804 or ebakuli@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @BakuliEthan.

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