Federal Emergency Relief Package

The federal stimulus package was far from perfect. We must go much further — and I am fighting hard to make sure we do just that in the next round of federal assistance. But I'm proud that we succeeded in getting relief to the working families in this country who have just lost their jobs or seen reduced hours due to the COVID-19 crisis. The stimulus law will provide real help to millions — but we must make sure that we effectively implement its many programs and get the benefits in the hands of those who need it as quickly as possible.

It is the largest emergency relief package in American history — and a significant part of this law is the expansion of unemployment insurance. 

People need help NOW, not in several months. That is why I've called on the U.S. Department of Labor to do everything within its power to help states rapidly disburse unemployment benefits. Read the letter to Secretary Scalia here.


What You Need to Know about Unemployment Insurance

$260 Billion for Unemployment Insurance

  • $600 increase in weekly unemployment benefits for up to four months
  • Unemployment benefits expanded to include workers traditionally ineligible —  self-employed people, independent contractors, and part time workers — through December 31, 2020
  • Additional 13 weeks of federally-funded unemployment benefits for individuals who have exhausted their state unemployment benefits through December 31, 2020

How to Apply for Unemployment Insurance:

  • To file an initial claim, call the Vermont Department of Labor at 1-877-214-3330 or 1-888-807-7072, or complete this form:
  • If you are newly eligible for unemployment compensation due to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program (PUA) — submit an initial claim by completing the same online form:
    • You will be notified when the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program is fully up and running. Completing this claim now ensures the VT DOL has your information in their system. 
    • You may also sign up to receive newsletter updates from the VT DOL here:
  • If you've already applied for unemployment insurance, complete your weekly claim by calling 1-800-983-2300, or complete the online form:
  • For general claims assistance call 1-877-214-3332.
  • Please note: The Department of Labor requests that all people who are able to file online do so. This will help keep phone lines open for those without internet access or who need additional assistance. 
  • Visit the Vermont Department of Labor's site for more information on establishing your unemployment claim, resources for employees during this time and answers to some frequently asked questions:

Frequently Asked Questions:


How much can I get from Unemployment Insurance (UI)? 

The exact amount you can receive through unemployment insurance depends on your state and your previous earnings. Between now and July 31, an additional $600 will be added to every unemployment compensation check, so no one will receive less than $600 per week. The extra $600 is a new program known as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. 


What if I'm not eligible for traditional Unemployment Insurance?

The stimulus package temporarily expands unemployment insurance to cover individuals who are not traditionally covered, including the self-employed, gig-workers, independent contractors, and workers with irregular work history. It also expands the list of allowable criteria for claiming unemployment compensation to include many reasons related to the COVID-19 public health emergency. 

As a result of H.742 signed into law by Governor Scott on March 30th, the eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits were expanded to include the following areas:

Temporarily Laid-Off:

  • Your employer ceases operations for a COVID-19 related reason
  • As a direct result of an order issued by the Governor or President 
  • For the employee's own COVID-19 related isolation/quarantine 

Left Employment due to:

  • Being sick or isolated as the result of COVID-19
  • An unreasonable risk of exposure at your place of employment 
  • Caring for a family member who is sick or isolated as the result of COVID-19
  • Caring for a family member who had an unreasonable risk of exposure at their place of employment 
  • Need to care for a child who has had their school or childcare center closed

Work search requirements for all unemployment claimants have been temporarily waived as a result of COVID-19. Contact the Vermont Department of Labor to determine your eligibility. 

More information can be found at


As a tipped worker, will my tips count towards my unemployment compensation?

Under federal law, tips are considered part of compensation for UI, but reporting is dependent on your employer. Under this law, tipped workers who qualify for UI through their state will receive an additional $600 per week on top of their regular UI payment. Tipped workers whose reported income is not enough to qualify for state UI payments may be eligible for a smaller federal payment. Contact the Vermont Department of Labor to determine your eligibility.


Can workers get UI at the same time as they receive employer-provided paid leave? 

No, workers who are receiving paid leave are not eligible for UI.


What if I was about to start a new job and it was canceled due to the outbreak?

Workers whose offer of employment or contracts were rescinded due to the COVID-19 outbreak are eligible for UI as calculated by Vermont's program, and also for the $600 a week in pandemic unemployment assistance. 


What if I've been out of work because of COVID-19 for several weeks already?

If you exhaust the weeks of unemployment compensation available to you through Vermont's laws, you will be eligible for an additional 13 weeks of benefits. These benefits will be federally-funded, but you will still receive them through the Vermont Department of Labor. 


What if I'm still working, but my hours have been reduced? 

You are eligible to receive partial unemployment insurance benefits, but your employer must sign-up to participate in the Short Time Compensation program (STC). 

If you receive unemployment insurance through the STC program, you are also entitled to the $600 a week through the PUA program and will see it reflected in your compensation check.

How long will the expanded benefits be in place? 

Expanded eligibility for unemployment insurance will be in effect until December 31, 2020. The $600 additional benefit will be added to unemployment compensation received for weeks between March 27th and July 31st, 2020. 


Will I be taxed on these benefits?

Yes, both regular UI benefits and the $600 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefit are taxable. However, the extra benefit will be disregarded in determining Medicaid or CHIP eligibility.


Will my UI benefits and the $600 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefit count as income for the purpose of government assistance programs? 

UI and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits are treated as non-work income and may affect your eligibility for most government programs like food stamps (3SquaresVT), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and subsidized housing.

UI and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance will not count toward your income for Medicaid or CHIP eligibility. 


Is there a waiting period?

Since 2017, Vermont has not imposed a one-week waiting period between applying for unemployment compensation and receiving it. Further, in response to this crisis, Vermont suspended any mechanism that would delay the release of funds to claimants. 



The VT Agency of Commerce and Community Development's newly launched COVID-19 Resource Recovery Center is a great resource for Vermonters as well:

I hope this information is helpful to the many Vermonters who are suffering due to this pandemic and economic crisis. I will continue to make sure federal legislation responds to the needs of our most vulnerable community members, and my office will continue to share information as it becomes available. Do not hesitate to contact my office with questions or concerns on our website, or by phone at 802-862-0697 or 1-800-339-9834.


Thank you to the 36,600 Vermonters who joined our Town Hall on the Coronavirus Pandemic

I know our fellow speakers — Governor Phil Scott, Sen. Patrick Leahy, and Rep. Peter Welch — all agree that it was great to speak with Vermonters about the important issues we're all facing during this crisis. I was grateful to be joined by Dr. Mark Levine, Dr. Patsy Kelso, Michael Harrington, and Darcy Carter to help answer your many questions. We have a lot of work to do to ensure Vermonters get the help they need during this difficult time. 

If you missed the town hall, listen to it on my Facebook page here.


Now is not the time to despair — it's a time to come together. 



How Can We Help?

My Burlington office has a team of experienced caseworkers who help Vermonters navigate federal agencies every day. If you think my office can help you, please do not hesitate to call 1-800-339-9834 or (802) 862-0697, or click here

If you would like to share your thoughts on pending legislation, or if you have an idea that we could address through new legislation, click here