Vermont Blogger Blasts DOL Commissioner’s “Cavalier” Comments

"There’s simply no excuse for her cavalier comments or the grossly inadequate staffing at her department."

Cold-Hearted Advice from Vermont’s Department of Labor

January 15, 2009

Well, it turns out that there’s at least one place hiring in the State of Vermont: The Department of Labor. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the new jobs are in the department’s call centers. Yeah, the places that receive the growing number of calls from Vermonters who have lost their jobs and are seeking unemployment benefits.

The Vermont Press Bureau is reporting this morning that, according to Department of Labor Commissioner Patricia Moulton Powden, the number of weekly unemployment claims jumped from 7,300 in November to 16,000 by the end of December. And the avalanche of new calls have left most people either getting a busy signal or that annoying message indicating that “All circuits are busy right now.”

But that’s not the worst part of the story. That’s saved for Powden’s advice to the hard-luck workers seeking the state assistance they deserve but cannot attain due to the – ahem – Department of Labor’s staffing snafus. Here’s how Powden – via the Press Bureau – advised unemployment seekers to approach the frustrations of calling her department:

“Think of it as a radio contest. Just hit the redial button.”

Based on this comment, I can think of one more person who ought to be calling in for some unemployment benefits: Commissioner Powden.

There’s simply no excuse for her cavalier comments or the grossly inadequate staffing at her department. Trying to attain unemployment benefits isn’t a contest – it’s a lifeline. And getting through to the Department of Labor to secure that lifeline is what is standing between 16,000 Vermonters and the funds they need to keep food on their tables, fuel in their furnaces and roofs over their heads.

Instead of making light of the unfortunate situation of the callers and her own administrative failures, Powden should be nothing but contrite. Moreover, she and her boss, Governor Jim Douglas, should be working overtime to hire as many people as it takes to staff the unemployment calling centers adequately and appropriately in these tough times. And given that 16,000 unemployed people are calling her office every, it shouldn’t be hard to find workers.

If Powden doesn’t apologize for her cold-hearted comments and correct her department’s inadequate staffing soon, Douglas should see to it that Powden joins the ranks of the unemployed. And then, perhaps, she’ll see how unfunny, uncaring and unhelpful her little “radio contest” quip was.