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Mom who suddenly lost her job of 30+ years, waits months for the VEC to process unemployment benefits

Posted at 9:09 PM, Apr 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-17 08:28:28-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- One day after a class-action lawsuit was filed against the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) that alleged its delay in assessing and getting benefits to needy Virginians was causing an undue hardship, the CBS 6 Problem Solvers continue to get calls and emails about these very same issues.

Sheila Collins was let go from a job she loved after more than three decades and now, almost four months later, she's still waiting for the VEC to act.

"I'm losing the health insurance,” Collins said when asked about the impact has been of being out of work. “That's a huge thing with my job. My husband is in remission from cancer, so we need health insurance."

Collins spent 33 years working for Associated General Contractors of Virginia, until her job was eliminated in January.

“I have a child who’s 15, and so it’s kind of a big year for kids,” said Collins. “They get their learner's permit, and so, of course, that means car insurance will go up.”

But Collins' plight has unnecessarily gotten worse.

After her initial unemployment claim was confirmed on January 4, weeks turned into months, and still not one dollar has come from the VEC.

That makes caring for a family, including a brother in poor health who recently moved in, and a son in high school, financially impossible.

“He worries about it,” said Collins about her teenage son. “He's concerned, and I'm like, don't worry about it. If there's something you need, let me know. You know you try your best as a parent to do for your children. But of course, I don't want him to worry about that because that shouldn't be a concern for him. He needs to worry more about his schoolwork and getting good grades.”

Collins said she doesn't know what mistake she made with her VEC claim because each week she gets confirmation on her status update.

All Agents are Busy

"The longest time that I've ever stayed, really committed to staying, on the phone, was an hour and a half,” Collins said. “And I try to do that every other day, but I'm not catching a break, where an agent is free.”

She, like many viewers who have reached out to the CBS 6 Problem Solvers, said finding someone who can actually help is impossible.

“It would be nice if they had a callback number, I don't even mind waiting on hold,” she said. “You know, in having the music play. But just to constantly get, well, the phone hung up on you. That's a struggle.”

When asked about Collins' case, VEC spokeswoman Joyce Fogg did not respond specifically, but emailed the Problem Solvers last week about any inquiry CBS6 makes:

"They will have to contact the call center,” Fogg wrote. “They cannot be moved to the front of the list. We handle claims and issues in the order they are received."

Later she added: " I have forwarded all of these issues to our customer service and our call center. They will be handled and contacted."

The Wait Continues

“Of course, I know that it's something that I've filed wrong but I just don't know [what it is] and I need to speak with someone to help me figure that out,” Collins said.

In a cruel twist, Collins pointed out that while she has applied for a number of jobs already, trying to get someone at the VEC to pay attention is making the job search that much more difficult.

“You find yourself being on the phone constantly, so you're not concentrating on applying for jobs as you should be. So it takes away a lot of your time just trying to get on the phone with someone.”

Collins said she is looking for an office job and mentioned that years ago, she was a bank teller.

While the VEC has not acted on Collins' case, one promising development is the involvement of State Sen. Frank Ruff. His office told Collins they will reach out to the VEC on her behalf.