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Vt. Labor Braces For Sequestration Cuts

State officials have learned this week how federal across-the-board spending cuts will affect Vermont.

Labor Commissioner Annie Noonan says the most tangible consequence is the federal mandate that the state reduce unemployment benefits by 10 percent for the long-term jobless.

Noonan says that cut, which goes into effect today, will be difficult for the 1,000 Vermonters who receive long-term unemployment checks.

“I believe we’ll see that rollover into folks needing assistance from other programs,” Noonan says. “You’ll see people looking for assistance with heating and for transportation and additional childcare because a $40 a week cut is substantial.”

The spending reductions will also affect the state’s workforce development division. That’s the government agency that helps people get back to work. The state anticipated those cuts, Noonan says, but the department won’t be as well prepared to serve those looking for a job.

“It’s really pretty counter-intuitive,” she says. “We should be given much more latitude in the expenditure of the money. Let us figure out what works best in Vermont.”

On Thursday, the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office announced that the state is poised to lose about $9.3 million over the next two fiscal years, most of which will be felt in 2014.

The Joint Fiscal Office says the federal cuts will be concentrated in certain departments, including education, environmental conservation and labor.