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News Roundup: Vermont To Reinstate Work Search Requirement For Unemployment Claims May 9

A sign for Putney Mutal Aid
Howard Weiss-Tisman
/
VPR
A sign shares information about offerings from Putney Mutual Aid.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus, 2020 Census results and more for Tuesday, April 27.

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The latest coronavirus data:

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1. Vermont Dept. of Health reports 59 new COVID-19 cases

Vermont added 59 new coronavirus infections statewide Tuesday.

Health officials report one more person has also died from COVID-19, bringing the pandemic deaths in Vermont to 245.

Chittenden and Rutland Counties saw most of the new cases, with about a dozen new infections each.

Virus hospitalizations dropped to 19, with 5 people in intensive care.

Just over 59% of Vermonters 16 and older have now gotten at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

On Thurs., April 29, the state opens vaccine sign-ups to part-time residents, including out-of-state college students.

- Matthew Smith

Bennington College to require returning students be vaccinated against COVID-19

Students returning to Bennington College this fall will be required to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

The Bennington Banner reports the decision was announced in a letter from Bennington president Laura Walker last week.

She said the vaccination requirement would "ensure the health of the community and to provide a safe environment for learning and living."

A decision has not yet been made whether staff and faculty will also face a similar vaccination requirement.

About 70 U.S. colleges and universities have adopted student vaccination policies.

- Brittany Patterson

2. Vermont to reinstate work search requirement for unemployment claims May 9

The state will soon reinstate a requirement that people who receive unemployment benefits prove that they are looking for work.

The provision was suspended in the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic to limit potential exposure for job-seekers and employers.

But Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington says it's time to re-impose the search-for-work mandate now that COVID cases are declining and more Vermonters are vaccinated against the virus.

This means individuals still collecting unemployment benefits will be required to conduct a standard work search each week beginning the week of May 9-15.

And claimants will need to record those jobs contacts to the department the following week when they file their claims in order to remain eligible for unemployment benefits.

Harrington says 30,000 people are collecting unemployment, even as businesses say they are having trouble finding qualified workers to fill vacant positions.

- John Dillon

More from Vermont Edition: How Regional, Social And Financial Inequities Contribute To Uneven COVID-19 Impacts

3. 2020 census results show Vermont's population grew by 2.8 percent over the last decade

The US Census Bureau released the first results from the 2020 census Monday, including population totals for each state.

Vermont’s population grew by 2.8% over the last 10 years.

Between 2010 and 2020, the state’s population increased from nearly 626,000 to just over 643,000.

Population determines a state’s representation in Congress, and while some larger states are gaining or losing representatives, Vermont will maintain its one House seat.

Vermont is one of a handful of states with a single representative. Since 2007, that’s been Democrat Peter Welch.

- Anna Van Dine

New York’s North Country sees population decline, loses seat in U.S. House

Census data used to apportion seats in Congress will see New York's North Country lose a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

North Country Public Radio reports the state will go from 27 to 26 congressional districts.

The change was determined by a razor-thin margin of just 89 people.

That's due to slow population gains in the North Country west of Albany, and faster population growth in other states.

Redistricting will ultimately be done by state commissions, which are appointed by the state legislature. New districts should be drawn by February, in time for the June 2022 primaries.

- Matthew Smith

Massachusetts, New Hampshire see fastest population growth in New England

New Hampshire was the second fastest growing state in New England over the last decade, according to new Census Bureau data.

The Granite State's population grew a 4.6% since 2010.

Massachusetts grew slightly faster, seeing a 7.4% increase. That matches the population increase across the nation as a whole over the last decade, the second-slowest increase ever.

Maine's population saw the smallest growth in the last ten years, growing just 2.6%, just behind Vermont, at 2.8%.

- The Associated Press

Hear more about Vermont’s census results in today’s episode of The Frequency.

4. Vermont aims to boost vaccine uptake with drive-through clinics, among other tactics

The Scott Administration is looking at a variety of outreach efforts to encourage Vermonters to get a COVID vaccination. One strategy uses drive-through clinics.

The state is hoping to have roughly 80% of Vermonters over 16 vaccinated by the Fourth of July.

Gov. Phil Scott says he's aware that a number of people are reluctant to get vaccinated and he's hoping to make it easier for them.

“We have seen some hesitancy, a lack of folks stepping up to make appointments and so forth,” Scott said. “But I will say, some of the strategy that we've put into place is working."

As part of its new approach, the state held a drive-through clinic at the Barton Fairgrounds Tuesday  from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Appointments can be made through the state's online system.

Do you have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine in Vermont? We’ve got answers.

- Bob Kinzel

5. Vermont's wedding industry calls for changes to proposed new coronavirus business relief program

Vermont’s $160 million wedding industry says it’s getting shut out from a COVID-19 relief bill in the Legislature.

Industry leaders say the formula used to determine grant eligibility won’t accurately capture losses in the wedding and events sector.

And Brian Maggiato, owner of the Inn at Manchester, says the COVID-19 grants aren’t big enough to keep businesses like his afloat.

“With travel guidelines and gathering restrictions still in place, no matter how creative any of us are, there are limitations on our earning potential, and this is being forced upon us,” Maggiato said.

The Vermont Association of Wedding Professionals has asked the Vermont Senate to reconfigure the formula used to determine grant eligibility.

Lawmakers want to use 2020 tax returns to determine whether businesses are eligible for COVID relief grants.

But Josh Eckler, owner of the Trailside Inn in Killington, says tax data won’t capture the severity of his losses.

“Many businesses liquidated assets,” Eckler said. “We did all these things to try to make it work, so using 2020 isn’t a realistic thing to show who’s actually still continuing to lose revenue, and who’s still continuing to suffer.”

Eckler and other hospitality professionals are asking lawmakers to change the formula that will be used to determine grant eligibility.

They also want lawmakers to double the maximize grant size, to $300,000.

- Peter Hirschfeld

More from VPR: Vt. Distributed $330 Million In Business Recovery Grants. Here’s How It Worked For The Ski Industry

6. Castleton grapples with what College Merger might mean for community

The Vermont State Colleges Board says a cost-cutting plan to merge Castleton University with Northern Vermont University and Vermont Technical College is the only way to ensure sustainable, high-quality and affordable higher education across the state.

But in Castleton, some believe a merger will hurt their town and historic university, without solving underlying problems like declining enrollment.

Joe Mark served as an academic dean at Castleton for 30 years, and is now on the town selectboard.

"The money that’s going to be required to implement the new plan is going to be throwing good money after bad,” Mark said. “And I think five years from now, the Vermont State College System will be back at the Legislature with new financial needs."

If the merger goes as planned and funding is approved, the new multi-campus university will open in the fall of 2023.

Read or listen to the full story.

- Nina Keck

7. Koffee Kup Bakery closes Brattleboro, Burlington facilities with little notice

After 70 years of baking breads and donuts in Vermont, two Koffee Kup Bakery locations abruptly closed their doors Monday.

WCAX reports that the closure, confirmed by the Department of Labor, will affect hundreds of workers.

The bakery's Burlington and Brattleboro locations ended their operations Monday with little notice to its workers.

The TV station notes some employees even showed up to work Monday night, only to learn the company had closed.

It's unknown whether the Koffee Kup's Connecticut location will be affected by the Vermont closures.

- Matthew Smith

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