RICHMOND, Va. -- Like hundreds of thousands of Virginians, Denise Atkinson-Gary and her family members have been counting on help from the VEC for unemployment benefits.
Atkinson-Gary said her case was opened nearly a year ago. The financial struggle since then has been real.
She said the process to get unemployment benefits has brought one hurdle after the other. The next big obstacle?
“On April 10 of this year, my VEC case runs out. It's crazy to me, because I have not received one dime yet. I can't get anyone to see if I can extend it or what to do with it. So it's like, I feel like I'm in limbo” Atkinson-Gary said.
She told the CBS 6 Problem Solvers that in the past 11 months she has spent countless hours trying to simply connect with someone at VEC. Meanwhile, the Richmond mom says she’s drowning financially.
She has lost her SUV, bills are piling up, putting an unbearable financial load on her husband’s shoulders.
“Either I'm emailing or trying to call on the phone and I can't get through. This morning, I was on a chat. I had ten people in front of me. When I got to four people in front of me, they cut it off and it said my session had ended” Atkinson-Gary explained.
CBS 6 questioned the agency about what has been done in the past year to address the complaints.
VEC’s Joyce Fogg says their phone system has been updated several times. Now, there is also a new option for people to leave a call back number and avoid waiting for hours.
They’ve added nearly 600 staff members and opened a new call center in Grundy with more call capacity and work space.
Fogg says not only have they brought back some retired workers, they are also deploying workers from other departments to work in the unemployment insurance section.
Since last March VEC has received 1.5 million claims. That’s more claims than the last 10 years combined. She tells CBS 6 News the agency has paid 1.3 million claims since last year.
Fogg said 80% of those left over are not qualified for the unemployment insurance. The other 20% have issues and area awaiting adjudication. That process, she said must be followed, per state law.
As for Denise’s case, Fogg tells CBS 6 someone will review it and give her a call. Fogg also suggests claimants call early, before 8 a.m. during the week.
They can also call on Saturdays between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.. Those with PIN number issues can have their PINS reset by calling any of the offices listed on the VEC website.