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Virginia unemployment claimants report more issues, respond to Governor Northam's call for 'patience'

Some unemployment recipients say their benefits have stopped since the Virginia Employment Commission reinstated a work search requirement, despite applying for jobs

NORFOLK, Va. — Virginia unemployment claimants say problems persist with the Commonwealth's system of resolving disputed claims, forcing many to wait for benefits.

On Friday, Governor Ralph Northam told unemployment applicants to "be patient and persevere" as the Virginia Employment Commisison works through a backlog of about 59,000 claims and adjudications flagged with 'outstanding issues.'

“We want to get the pandemic behind us, we want to get people back to work so they’re not filing for unemployment anymore, but it’s certainly an issue and we understand it.," Northam said.

In response to Northam's comments, dozens of unemployed Virginians messaged 13News Now in frustration.

“I would love to see how patient he would be when he can’t feed his children, my children are grown but I know people who cannot feed their children," said Terah Castel, an unemployed former Human Resources manager. "And persevere? I mean people having been persevering for months. What does he think we’re doing?"

Castel said she's applying for multiple jobs each week and reporting them to the Virginia Employment Commission, but since the VEC reinstated the work search requirement, her benefits stopped. 

"I’m doing everything they’ve asked me to do, I’m applying for jobs, I’ve been sending the contact information, I’ve done everything," she said. “I’m very discouraged and somewhat angry that the Governor is not doing anything to help us, I’m sorry he’s not.”

Last month, Northam directed the VEC to spend $20 million to make “immediate technology upgrades” and hire 300 new adjudication staffers.

 However, claimants said they still can’t reach anyone for help with ‘outstanding issues’

“They’re saying they’re hiring more people and if they’re hiring more people, then the phones should be ringing where we can speak with someone," she said.

Castel and all unemployment applicants in Virginia are now required to apply to at least two jobs per week.

Over the entire pandemic, U.S. Department of Labor data shows Virginia ranks as the sixth best state at getting first payments to applicants within three weeks.

Virginia ranks last in the country at resolving problems with claims within the same timeframe.