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Hundreds are waiting for unemployment benefits in Virginia: 'I'm scared to death'

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Posted at 11:47 PM, May 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-22 01:52:15-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia Employment Commission ( VEC) has received more than 700,000 unemployment claims and paid over two billion dollars in benefits to Virginians since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But about 30 percent of Virginians still have not been able to get their benefits due to outstanding claims. Lonnie Kirk is among that 30 percent still searching for answers as to why.

"I'm scared to death, I don't know what to do," Kirk said. "It's been three, four months since I've had any income."

The 57-year-old is trying to get his unemployment benefits, after taking a leave of absence earlier this year from Lowes.

"By doing so I lost my job and then I filed for unemployment," Kirk said. "I was at high risk of getting this disease."

Kirk said he's on the verge of getting his cell-phone shut off, not being able to buy groceries or get gas for his truck. He's been trying for months to get in touch with someone at the VEC and the governor's office.

"I've been calling everyday, everything on the websites. Every number I could find. Emailing people, setting appointments, nobodies returned my call," Kirk said.

Governor Northam addressed the issue in a Facebook Live interview with CBS 6 Wednesday night.

"I agree it's not a perfect situation, but I would ask that people be patient," Northam said.

Kirk said he heard the governor but believes more needs to be done.

"I been patient for three months, I've run out of patience," Kirk said. "What do you want me to do now? I need some money, I don't have any."

CBS 6 reached out to the VEC on Thursday. They said they now have more than 600 people working their call centers and even added a new unit just to answer emails. Kirk said he got a letter in the mail telling him he qualified.

"It's 260 a week from unemployment and the federal government gives you 600," Kirk said.

He just hopes someone can hear his plea.

"To come out of all this, I know we're going to be stronger, we're going to make changes and make it better but we got to fix what's broke right now and people not having money is broke," Kirk said.

The VEC recommends people looking to claim unemployment to call 866-832-2363 or 800-828-1120. The office is open from 8:15 a.m.
to 4:30 p.m., Monday - Friday. The office will be closed Memorial Day weekend.

The VEC also acknowledged that there are wait times but encourages people to continue calling and also emailing them at customerservice@vec.virginia.gov.