RICHMOND, Va.-- Tens of thousands of people who lost their jobs in the pandemic have relied on the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) for help making ends meet.
Unfortunately, applying for and receiving benefits is a process that isn't going smoothly for everyone.
Pippa Curran, 42, said she has been trying to get in touch with the VEC for more than seven months to find out why her benefits were stopped -- even though she claims she’s still qualified to receive them.
“No explanation, no reason, no warning," said Curran. “This is so far not right, like I don't even know where to begin."
The Richmond native was doing creative freelance work and was employed at Target full-time when the pandemic hit. That’s where she believes she contracted COVID-19.
“I was in the ICU for five days, in the hospital for nine, almost intubated, which I still have nightmares from that," Curran explained. "It was terrifying.”
Curran is still suffering the effects of the virus, which she said made it difficult to find a job.
“I still have a terrible cough," she said. "I'm on multiple inhalers, and I'm still pretty much stuck in the house because I can't wear a mask. If I wear it for more than like 10 or 15 minutes at a time, I go into a full-on breathing issue."
With no benefits or income, Curran said she's desperate for help.
"All of my credit cards, except for my two major ones have been canceled," she said. "They're about to be completely turned off, if I don't pay the balance soon. I've skipped medications because I didn't have enough money.”
Curran has reached out to VEC numerous times hoping to get answers, but she said she hasn't had any luck.
"Trying to get in touch with them is like an exercise in futility," said Curran.
She even sent emails to her elected leaders, including Senator Mark Warner, Senator Tim Kaine, and Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger earlier this month.
That same day, she heard back from a VEC representative via email saying Target submitted a claim that she voluntarily quit, but she said she told them that was not the case. VEC responded they would review the issue, but now nearly two weeks later, she's still waiting on answers.
“I never would have thought that a state like Virginia would have dropped the ball like this," said Curran.
CBS 6 reached out to VEC as well. A spokesperson told us they cannot provide information on an individual case, and they also sent us this statement:
There are over 527,000 jobs advertised on the Virginia Workforce Connection's website. There are also many job fairs advertised on the VEC's website. I encourage those unemployed to view that information. Most of the job fairs are virtual. Many employers are struggling and are having a hard time finding employees. They cannot operate their businesses because they cannot get employees. The VEC is contacted daily by employers looking for employees. Those not working are losing valuable time towards their retirement and social security.
Curran said she wanted to return to work.
“The two job thing a week is not a problem for me," she explained. "I've been doing more than that.”
As she actively searches for a job, Curran said she was hopeful she would be able to pick up the pieces soon, but she wanted to make sure she and other Virginians are paid the benefits they’re owed.
Curran said she’s currently interviewing for jobs in creative design, but even if she's hired, she said it will take years to rebuild her credit. Because of that, she believes her dream of owning a home is out the window for now.
Curran's story is part of a special edition of Rebound Richmond in which we examine the unemployment crisis in Virginia.
Not only are we talking to people struggling to get benefits, but we're diving deep with analysts who break down how Virginia compares to the rest of the U.S. (it's not good).
In-depth coverage begins on the CBS 6 News at 5.
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