NORFOLK, Va. — The Virginia Employment Commission is no longer requiring unemployed workers to use PINs to file weekly or continued claims for benefits.
A VEC spokeswoman said the policy change is designed to help people file each week. She said applicants will still receive a PIN for account and identification purposes, but they no longer need to use it for weekly benefits.
The system instead uses an individual's social security number and other identifiable information.
The policy change comes after Virginians reported delays in receiving PINs due to the overwhelmed VEC system with thousands of coronavirus-related layoffs.
Delayed PINs prevented unemployed workers from filing weekly claims and then receiving unemployment benefits, forcing some to miss days or weeks of payments.
More than 300,000 Virginians have filed for unemployment since mid-March, a record-shattering number.
Some people still report different problems with the VEC system of processing claims.
Derek Bowie, a worker in the entertainment industry who said he's been working for the same company for 32 years, said he was furloughed on April 1 and filed for unemployment that same day.
Without a confirmation beyond the webpage saying he completed his claim, and after a week-long effort of trying to follow-up, Bowie said he reached a Virginia Employment Commission representative on April 8 who told him his initial claim didn’t process.
“She basically, in a nice way, told me that due to the volume they were receiving the system couldn't handle it and that [myself] and thousands of other people were having the same problem," Bowie said.
Bowie said VEC will backdate his claim to April 5, but he’ll miss out on four days of benefits.
“They have a system problem; they recognize it and thousands of people - according to the agent I talked to - are basically losing benefits because of a system error that they had," Bowie said. "Those systems need to be more robust, what are they doing to fix, correct and resolve these issues?"
Bowie said he's thankful for the efforts of hard-working VEC staff members, but he's concerned for many people who may also be experiencing serious problems with the unemployment claims system.
“I know they’re overwhelmed, they're working very hard and I appreciate the efforts they’re making to try and accommodate everyone," he said. "But it just seems that the infrastructure should’ve been better prepared.”
Monday, Bowie filed his weekly claim for benefits. He said he didn’t need to use a PIN, likely due to the VEC policy change. Bowie said he should receive benefits on Wednesday, but he's not confident.
“I’m going to be anxiously anticipating whether I receive benefits or not," he said.
VEC says it’s now sending automated texts to let people know their claims have been received, an effort to both increase communication and reduce the number of phone calls into the backlogged 1-866-832-2363 number.
The VEC website reads: "Currently, the online claim filing system is operational but not sending confirmation numbers. Claims are being received and we are working on fixing the problem."