Gov. Peter Shumlin was joined today by business owners and lawmakers to announce that $5 million in unemployment insurance relief will be provided to 75 Vermont businesses -- impacting about 300 employees -- hit in 2011 by three natural disasters, including flooding in April and May, and Tropical Storm Irene in August. The Governor said the new law is another step in the state's efforts to help Vermont businesses recover from natural disasters and prepare for those in the future.
"We recognized that businesses already struggling to recover from these natural disasters were facing added unemployment expenses," said Gov. Shumlin. "Together, working with business owners and legislative leaders, we adopted disaster relief provisions to ensure that the approximately 75 employers from across Vermont who applied for help will get some relief from these costs."
The severe weather in 2011, particularly the tropical storm, forced many businesses to shut down for extended periods of time and involuntarily lay off employees. While these layoffs were not the fault of many employers, their unemployment experience rating was affected and their unemployment assessments increased significantly. To assist these companies and get Vermonters back to work, the Vermont Legislature passed, and the Governor signed, a bill implementing Disaster Relief Unemployment Insurance Provisions that grant up to eight weeks of retroactive state unemployment tax relief for affected employers. The credit will be applied to the next UI bills, which are issued quarterly, and because the rates are set -- based on experience -- through 2014, rates will be adjusted to reflect the change through that final billing cycle. The new law also provides up to four weeks of relief in the event of future disaster events.
Working with the Department of Labor, the Legislature determined that the state could afford to put approximately $8 million toward employer relief without weakening the UI Trust Fund. The program is projected to cost approximately $5 million, significantly less than originally anticipated, ensuring that the Labor Department can grant relief to employers without negatively impacting the fund's stabilization.
Labor Commissioner Annie Noonan thanked state lawmakers for ensuring that impacted businesses receive the relief they deserve while also taking a cautious approach and protecting the solvency of the fund.
"The Legislature has taken a prudent and fair approach to the request for assistance from many businesses that were impacted by these disasters," Noonan said. She specifically thanked members of the House Commerce, Senate Economic Development and Senate Finance Committees for their good work, as well as Reps. Allison Clarkson, Ann Manwaring, Bill Botzow and Mike Marcotte, and Sens. John Campbell, Dick McCormick, Tim Ashe and Kevin Mullin.