UI Benefits Increase Will Do Little to Provide Financial Relief

The Senate Economic Development, Housing, and Military Affairs Committee returned to the issue of increasing Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits with S.221, a proposal to create a temporary supplemental benefit of $25 per week for claimants, paid for with federal ARPA funds. The temporary benefit would remain in place until 2024, at which time the Committee hoped the UI mainframe computer system could be modernized, and a permanent $25 supplemental weekly benefit could take effect. However, the Vermont Department of Labor testified that this timeline is unrealistic, and IT modernization is likely to take up to five years once funding is provided for the project and a contract selection process is completed. The Committee is hesitant to pass a bill implementing a supplemental benefit that may not be continued as promised but is also under pressure from the U.S. Department of Labor to either repeal the legislation passed last year authorizing the supplemental benefit or find a fix. The Vermont Chamber believes that tax relief for Vermonters will be more effective in accomplishing the Committee’s goals than increasing unemployment benefits for this comparatively small pool of people.