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Vt. bill boosts publishers, Irene-hit businesses

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- The Vermont Senate is expected to pass legislation to reduce unemployment insurance costs for two groups of businesses — those forced to lay people off and close after natural disasters, and newspaper publishers.

The Senate voted 18-10 on Tuesday to support a bill designed to alleviate the financial hit taken by businesses that were forced to close by flooding from Tropical Storm Irene. Many laid off workers as a result, and later saw their unemployment insurance premiums rise sharply.

The bill, which comes up for final Senate approval Wednesday, would limit premium increases in such circumstances.

An amendment to the bill also clarifies something that's been contentious in court battles and past legislation: It says newspaper carriers are independent contractors and not employees covered by unemployment insurance.