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Some Virginians meet roadblocks while filing for unemployment

'Trying to file this week was horrendous...'
Posted at 7:08 PM, Apr 02, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. -- Some Virginians filing for unemployment are struggling to navigate the system as claims spiked to record numbers across the country.

Unemployment claims soared to 6.6 million in the United States for the week ending March 28, the Department of Labor said in a press release on Thursday.

In Virginia, claims were up 67,287 more than the 46,277 claims filed the previous week.

Ethan Goettsch was laid off from his bartending job in Richmond on March 16.

“Being out of work and not being able to live, and having to deal with unemployment is very stressful,” he explained.

Goettsch was unsure if his weekly claim was submitted through the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) website over the weekend.

“Trying to file this week was horrendous and I tried filing Sunday and apparently it didn’t work. So, I don’t think I’ll get unemployment this week,” Goettsch recalled.

Audrey Christian attempted to use VEC’s phone number to sign up her husband for unemployment when he was laid off from his cooking job on Tuesday.

“It did say one day you could possibly have a two-hour wait. That’s not a problem, but if it’s cutting you off, you can’t even get in line to wait,” Christian stated.

Christian said the automated system claimed she entered an invalid social security number.

“After three attempts it will hang up,” she described.

A CBS 6 viewer called the system “confusing” as it also requires you to obtain a personal identification number to submit your claim.

“This system is not set up for this shutdown,” they wrote.

A VEC spokesperson told CBS 6 on March 23 that filings have increased dramatically, and the state is doing everything it can to get them filed and pay folks within one week.

They recommended that you go online to fill out a claim for benefits as opposed to calling because call wait times are around two hours long.

In a coronavirus tele-town hall held by Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond), VEC officials said a new call center is planned to help with the surge of claims. Additional positions will be added to existing centers.

A request for comment from a VEC spokesperson about the issues was not returned as of Thursday afternoon.

If you do go online, VEC warned to watch out for scams because there are some scam sites out there that will take your information or pay, so make sure you visit vec.virginia.gov or call 866-832-2363.

Here's who qualifies and when you can apply:

  • One day after becoming unemployed or having your hours cut you can file.
  • The Governor waved the requirement that you be searching for work to get unemployment, and you should get paid within a week.

Depend on CBS 6 News and WTVR.com for the most complete coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 Precautions

Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.

COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.

Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.Avoid non-essential travel.