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Why 60,000 unemployment claims are on hold in Virginia

Lawmakers take issue with Virginia Employment Commission as thousands of applications remain on hold
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Posted at 6:10 PM, Jul 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-17 09:39:58-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia lawmakers are now trying to fix what they call communication and transparency issues at the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) as officials with the agency said thousands of people's applications for remain on hold due to issues with their claims.

During a Zoom call for media with the VEC Thursday, the agency forbade reporters from recording the meeting, and instead told reporters to just use information from the call.

Three representatives from the VEC spoke on the call, and said more than 1 million initial claims for unemployment have been filed in Virginia since Jan. 1.

They said 75 percent of claimants have received payments, but 60,000 people are not receiving funds right now due to issues with their claims.

The VEC said those issues include everything from fraud to how they lost their job or refusal to get a new job.

Several people have reached out to CBS 6 wondering why they haven't received benefits yet or why they were cut off, and said they can't get through to the VEC for answers.

Forty-three Virginia legislators sent a letter to the Virginia Employment Commission expressing concerns with the agency's lack of communication and transparency during the pandemic.

They also said they want to work with VEC on a policy proposal that could improve the situation.

“We have received the letter this morning from legislators, and we intend to respond once we have a chance to fully review the letter. I am not in a position to fully address issues raised in the letter until we've had a chance to review it and respond back to those who sent it to us,” VEC Spokesperson Joyce Fogg said.

However, the agency sent a response to lawmakers Thursday evening to address their "primary concerns."

"Thank you for your recent letter regarding the Virginia Employment Commission and the ongoing response to unprecedented demand for unemployment benefits due to the current COVID-19 pandemic," VEC Commissioner Ellen Marie Hess Commissioner wrote. "Since the pandemic was declared in March, staff members at the VEC have worked tirelessly to manage the influx of unemployment claims. We appreciate and share your concern for those Virginians who have reported difficulties in obtaining benefits and in reaching a member of the Commission staff."

The VEC said 18000 people have applied for a 13 week extension of their benefits under the federal CARES Act. These are folks that exhausted their standard state allotment of benefits already.