WATERBURY, Vt. (WCAX) Vermonters laid off because of the coronavirus are still waiting on unemployment checks as state officials struggle to process an unprecedented surge in claims. And the cash can't come soon enough for many.
Tyler Audet lives in Waterbury and worked as a painter before being laid off because of COVID-19. He was supposed to get paid on the 30th, but he says he's still waiting on his check.
"The biggest concern for me right now is feeding my kids and paying my bills," Audet said.
He says he's tried to contact the state numerous times with no luck. "Myself, I've called unemployment -- I added it up earlier today -- I called 153 times," Audet said.
He and many other Vermonters are waiting on their checks as the department of labor processes a record number of claims. Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington says the state has sent out 17,000 checks in the last week. He says some payments are being delayed because certain claims have issues. "Whether they don't have complete information, whether there's another piece that's missing from the claim, whether a monetary eligibility concern," he said.
Harrington also says there is no standard schedule for issuing claims and that the state is working to issue checks as fast as they can. The department also operates on a decades-old computer system where technical difficulties can set back payments. "There are times where a batch failed overnight or something that we have to correct the next day, and that can delay the payment by a day or two," he said.
At the same time, the state is still working to roll out unemployment benefits for independent contractors. It's unclear exactly when those small business owners will see their checks, but state officials say it could be weeks. Governor Scott says a lack of guidance at the federal level has prevented the state from moving forward. "Taking care of some of the existing claims under traditional methods has been time consuming because of the sheer numbers," he said.
Meanwhile, for those laid of workers like Audet, the money is running out. "I have probably $40 in my pocket to buy groceries to get through to get our next check," he said.