RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) hired a Richmond-based public affairs and business consulting firm for public relations help during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the VEC's contract with Capital Results.
On its website, Capital Results said it has "the know-how to develop the communications strategy and the skills and experience to successfully implement it. "
The state paid the firm $124,000 for help with "public relations services for press releases, reporter briefings, op-eds, collateral materials, and social media campaigns" from May 18 through August 2, according to the contract.
However, the VEC's Public Information Officer Joyce Fogg said, "It is a communications contract, not PR."
VEC has faced heavy scrutiny since the pandemic began from people applying for unemployment benefits.
Many people have told CBS 6 they can't get through to the agency by phone or email to find out why they have not received benefits, or why their benefits were abruptly stopped.
Last Thursday, the agency held a press call over Zoom, but then told reporters not to record the call, and to only use the information provided, unless stated by Fogg, on background.
The next day, the Fogg told CBS 6 we could use audio from the call.
When asked about the Capital Results contract, Fogg said the VEC "needed additional support in our communications efforts."
She added that the "number of requests for information is overwhelming."
"Given the number of inquiries from media, the public, the business community, and other important stakeholders wanting to better understand eligibility requirements, application processes, appeal processes, and other information relevant to unemployment benefits associated with job losses related to the pandemic, it was necessary for us to scale-up our communications activities quickly and efficiently," Fogg said.