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Missing payments and no help; Richmond woman describes VEC experience as 'traumatizing'

Posted at 11:26 PM, Apr 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-22 09:07:19-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- In an email to the head of the Virginia Employment Commission, a Richmond woman described her experience as 'traumatizing,' after she said payments stopped multiple times with no warning and no assistance.

In her email to Ellen Marie Hess in April, Keshia Eugene added that she was 'starving,' and had 'lost all faith.'

The email came after Eugene said her unemployment payments had been stalled or missing, with little to no help from the VEC, three different times since May of 2020 -- most recently, in March when she got her last check.

"So that's like 34 weeks that payments have been stalled, out of maybe 40 -- 40 something. Think about that. That's a failing grade," said Eugene. "It's frustrating. These are people's lives."

The former IT worker said she went on unemployment after leaving her job in 2018, diagnosed with a brain disorder. Then started work as a freelance photographer and graphic designer, which all came to a screeching halt last May.

Eugene said those two different jobs had caused some confusion over which program (PUA or PUEC) she could get unemployment assistance from.

"It's just been putting me back and forth with the two programs, but no one can really get an answer," Eugene said.

Eugene said she’s reached out to the VEC hundreds of times, spent more than an hour on the phone and has also reached out to the governor's office, and on Monday, her senator, Joe Morrissey.

In an email, Morrissey’s office responded to CBS 6 confirming that a staff member submitted an inquiry with VEC's division “Constituent Services” on Eugene’s behalf, which they said was what they do each time a constituent contacts his office requesting help with the VEC.

A spokesperson for Morrissey told CBS 6 that that should prompt a representative from the VEC to contact Eugene in one to three business days.

That spokesperson encouraged those who were having trouble getting in contact with the VEC to do the same -- reach out to your local delegate or senator, so they can flag your account and have someone contact you sooner.

But as of Wednesday afternoon -- three days later -- Eugene said she still had not received a call.

"I need answers. Like I don't have any other options," said Eugene.

On Tuesday, the VEC announced claimants would have to report two job searches per week beginning in early June, as part of the work search requirement that had been suspended during the pandemic.

Ironically enough, Eugene said issues she was having with the VEC, had made it that much harder to focus on finding work.

"This is ridiculous. I'm sitting here, I shouldn't be trying to figure out what's going on with my claim when I should be looking for... I should be reaching out to possible clients," Eugene said.

CBS 6 reached out to the VEC on Eugene’s behalf and received no response. In a previous email about another case, a spokesperson with the VEC said they do not comment on individual claims.