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'Taking in Around 1500 Calls A Day': Vermont's Labor Dept. Handles Coronavirus Job Shock

A person filling out an unemployment form.
Acting Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington joins "Vermont Edition" to talk about how mass closures and economic disruptions from the coronavirus emergency are affecting Vermont's workers and the state's unemployment benefits.

Vermont's Department of Labor is dealing with coronavirus-related job losses and unemployment claims, tripling the number of calls the office fields each day and leaving many Vermonters wondering if they're eligible for virus-related unemployment benefits. 

Acting Commissioner Michael Harrington tells Vermont Edition the federal government asks states to wait a week before releasing its latest unemployment numbers, to verify both new and ongoing claims.

The latest DOL data, current through Mar. 14, shows only about 200 new unemployment claims and doesn't reflect the current influx of new claims related to the coronavirus.

Harrington says his office won't release the latest numbers until they are verified, but he says "our call volumes have gone up exponentially."

"Typically we answer somewhere around 200 to 600 calls ... in a traditional season," he says. "We are now operating three seperate phone lines that are probably taking in somewhere around fifteen hundred calls a day." 

Listen to the full interview above to hear more from Harrington about how the Dept. of Labor is adjusting unemployment programs for the coronavirus emergency.

Broadcast live on Tuesday, Mar. 24, 2020 from 12-1 p.m.; rebrodcast from 7-8 p.m.

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