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VEC asks people to file for weekly benefits before site goes down for technology upgrades

Officials said they hope to have the system up the first week of October. They're urging people to file for weekly benefits before the system temporarily goes down.

NORFOLK, Va. — New unemployment claims filed in Virginia last week almost quadrupled from the week before.

According to the Department of Labor, almost 17,000 people filed new claims for benefits, way up from about 4,000 the previous week.

As claims go up, the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) is upgrading its benefits system to speed up the process.

That means the system will go offline next week.

Officials said they are shooting to have the revamped system up and running sometime during the first week of October. But right now, they are urging people to file their weekly benefits before the system goes down.

“A lot more communication through this portal and through this tool,” said Virginia Secretary of Labor, Megan Healy. “Very similar to the 21st-century technology that we are used to these days.”

Healy said the benefits system is going through a modernization, giving it a new look and extra bells and whistles. Healy said people will spend less time waiting for the mail.

“A person will have a claimant portal, and on this portal, you can see any documents,” Healy said. “We had a challenge this past year that we are required to mail documents if it's forms or letters or benefit letters. We have heard of a lot of people not getting their pin in the mail. So, all documents that are mailed, required by law, will actually pop up on this portal.”

She said the new portal will also show someone where they are in the process of receiving benefits. They won’t have to dial up the call center.

“Almost like a tracker system, you filed your claim, this is where it is in the review process, yes you’re 'awarded' or 'eligible,' 'no, you are not, but we just need additional information,' 'you can also upload those documents to see if you are eligible,'" Healy said.

This will free up call representatives.

“So, our call center staff is really going to be working with individuals that have really complex cases,” Healy said.

The online system will shut off on Sept. 29 at noon, and the call center closes Sept. 30 at 6 p.m.

Healy said filers need to complete the weekly certification between Sept. 26 -30.

"We want to make sure that everyone, the week before, gets their benefits out,” Healy said.

The VEC said the changeover could take around five to seven days.

VEC officials are answering FAQ on their website.

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