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Gov. Northam directs VEC to speed up processing of unemployment claims

Virginia Unemployment Commission
Posted at 4:19 PM, May 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-18 16:19:49-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Gov. Ralph Northam directed the Virginia Unemployment Commission to invest $20 million to expand the agency's ability to process unemployment insurance claims.

The executive directive will require the agency to add 300 new adjudication staffers, make technology upgrades and modernize Virginia's unemployment insurance system by October 1, 2021.

Northam's action will help to speed up the resolution of unemployment cases that are flagged as possibly fraudulent or ineligible.

“Virginia is a national leader in getting unemployment benefits to eligible individuals, but it’s clear that complex cases must be resolved more quickly,” said Governor Northam. “That’s why I’m directing the Virginia Employment Commission invest $20 million to significantly speed up its adjudication process and immediately implement long-overdue technology upgrades. This action will address many of the issues that have caused delays and ensure that we continue to deliver relief to Virginians who need it.”

Virginia ranks 51 out of 53 states and territories for the amount of federal funding it receives relative to what Virginia businesses pay in taxes.

Executive Directive Sixteen directs the VEC to take the following immediate actions in order to adjudicate claims faster:

  • Set a clear goal for resolving UI claims: Gov. Northam has directed VEC to increase the number of adjudications being processed per week from 5,700 to 10,000 by June 30 and to 20,000 by July 31, 2021. This will be accomplished by finalizing a $5 million contract for over 300 additional adjudication officers. VEC is also coordinating with the Virginia Department of Human Resource Management to identify employees across Virginia’s state agencies who can temporarily support VEC.
  • Continue investment in Customer Contact Center: Since the onset of the pandemic, VEC has quadrupled its customer service capacity in order to provide information and support to Virginians with questions about their claims. Gov. Northam has directed VEC to expedite an additional contract for services and staff to augment the current expansion.
  • Modernize the benefits system: Historic claim volume during the pandemic had previously delayed VEC’s progress in modernizing its 41-year-old benefits system. The agency has resumed the project, executing a contract for $5 million in state funding for technology upgrades. October 1, 2021, has been set as the target date for completing the final phase of the system. VEC will be implementing additional technology upgrades for customer service in the coming weeks to increase capacity.
  • Collaborate with the Virginia congressional delegation to resolve federal funding disparity: States receive unemployment support from the federal government. The amount is based on how much Virginia businesses pay in federal unemployment insurance taxes. For Virginia, that ratio is among the lowest of all states and an increase typically requires businesses to pay more in taxes. This formula has underfunded Virginia’s UI system for years with respect to upgrading technology and maintaining staffing levels.

“As Virginia’s chief workforce official, I am always thinking about the Virginians behind the unemployment numbers,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy. “As we move into the next phase of our recovery, the Governor’s actions will create additional capacity for processing the historic number of claims with indeterminate eligibility.”