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Food, manufacturing, transportation industries fuel Virginia unemployment claims

Posted at 3:42 PM, Jul 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-23 18:02:48-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) said Thursday that initial claims for unemployment went up last week by about 5,600, and they anticipated the unemployment trust fund to be depleted in less than two months.

When that happens, the VEC will have to borrow money from the federal government to continue making payments.

In another Zoom call with the VEC that media was not allowed to record until a spokesperson read a statement at the very end, officials hit several key points related to upcoming issues with unemployment benefits.

They explained that employers are the ones that fund state unemployment benefits through taxes.

The amount they pay is based on how many times their employees have had to file for unemployment.

On average, businesses pay about $70 per employee annually. But because of the pandemic, some businesses could see that number skyrocket to $550 per employee.

"Businesses that have been hit hardest by the pandemic and that have laid off or furloughed the most employees could face the highest tax increases," Joyce Fogg, spokesperson for the VEC, said.

VEC officials also reminded folks that the Federal CARES act funding, which allowed claimants to receive an additional $600 per week is ending this Friday.

"Barring action by Congress to extend the benefit, federal law mandates the end of the $600 supplemental benefit this week," Fogg said.

As for the 60,000 people whose claims for benefits are on hold because of issues with their claims, the VEC said that number has not budged, despite stating last week that it hired additional staff, and are now processing 5,000 claims with issues per week.

The issues include people who voluntarily quit their job, refused to go back to work, got COVID and couldn't go back, or were fired for alleged misconduct.

VEC officials said there is no bypassing a state statue with these cases that you have to adjudicate the claims.

The food industry continues to be the hardest hit during the pandemic, but people working in manufacturing, transportation, and office support have been applying for unemployment in higher numbers recently.