The Virginia Employment Commission is trying to clear up any confusion over its caller response times and why some people's benefits might have been discontinued.
Virginians are continuing to report that it's almost impossible to reach anyone with the commission by phone. Many are wondering why their benefits have been completely cut off within the last few months.
The agency has hired 200 more employees to keep up with demand. Phone calls to their call centers have quadrupled and all workers have been averaging more overtime hours during the coronavirus pandemic.
Since March 15, 822,300 initial unemployment claims have been filed. Around 75 percent of those claims were approved and nearly $4 billion have been issued to those recipients.
During the Great Recession of 2007-2009, the payment rate was 42 percent, an all-time high at that point.
Although new federal programs have formed to dole out additional benefits and state unemployment has expanded, there are some applicants that still won't qualify for payment.
The commission also released the top reasons why applicants may not receive benefits payments, or why benefits payments stopped. These reasons include:
- A person did not file a weekly certification.
- The previous employer reported the person was fired for misconduct, took a leave of absence or quit without good cause.
- A person provided an incorrect Social Security number or incorrect banking information.
- A person earned wages that were equal to or exceeded their maximum weekly benefit amount.
- A person has exhausted their benefits for the benefit year prior to the pandemic.
In instances where an issue is identified (e.g., the previous employer indicates the person became unemployed for a reason other than layoff or furlough), federal guidance requires an administrative review hearing prior to issuing payment. Over the last two months, the commission has designated up to 80,000 claims that will require review by a Hearings Officer.
“The Commission has responded to the current unprecedented challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic by deploying all available resources to assist eligible Virginians with receiving their unemployment benefits. We are working diligently to validate and resolve issues for constituents as quickly as possible,” Commissioner Ellen Marie Hess stated.