MONTPELIER — Some collecting unemployment will soon have to start looking for work again, according to state officials.
At Gov. Phil Scott’s regular Tuesday news conference, Michael Harrington, commissioner of the state Department of Labor, said the work search requirement for unemployment insurance was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Harrington said with more residents getting vaccinated and the state moving back toward normalcy, that requirement will be reinstated May 9. He said those collecting unemployment will need to conduct a work search each week and report those job contacts the following week when they submit their claim.
“Refusing an offer of suitable work may result in the loss of benefits,” the commissioner said.
Harrington said those who have a qualifying circumstance because of the pandemic are exempt from the work search. Those circumstances include having to care for a child or loved one at home, needing to isolate because of a health condition or contracting the virus. Harrington said residents who claim to have such circumstances will be required to show documentation.
The commissioner said those who are self-employed and receiving unemployment are not required to conduct a work search at this time.
Employers have complained they can’t get their employees to return to work because they are sometimes making more money on unemployment. Those on unemployment receive an additional $300 per week stipend from the federal government as part of its response to the pandemic.
The governor said he doesn’t see this change as “some magical formula” to solve the state’s labor shortage.
“I don’t think this is going to make a dramatic change in some of the workforce shortages we see. Again, we’ve recognized this over the last decade, and its been increasing. We had the lowest unemployment rate in the country pre-pandemic, and this just hasn’t gone away,” Scott said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced someone who is fully vaccinated may not need to wear a mask during some outdoor activities, including small gatherings. The governor said members of his administration will keep this change in mind when they construct their own mask policy during the coming week.
Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said the change is in line with what state officials have been telling residents for a while. Levine said while wearing a mask wasn’t discouraged, officials have pointed to times when people are outside and away from others so they might not need to wear a mask.