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Virginia leaders tout new online unemployment system: 'I know this system will be ready'

After issues and delays in providing unemployment benefits during the pandemic, Virginia's modernization of its unemployment system is now operational.

NORFOLK, Va. — Virginia has a new online unemployment system, where people can file claims and view important documents.

The new system replaces technology that was decades-old, a key contributor to the major issues and delays in getting people unemployment benefits throughout the pandemic.

RELATED: Virginia attorney's lawsuit against VEC brings commitments of timeliness

State leaders said the new online system will make it easier for both claimants and Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) staffers.

"This technology is going to provide a better way of communicating with our claimants not through our call centers, and we’ve already seen that," said Virginia Secretary of Labor Megan Healy.

Healy said VEC call center wait times have been reduced to about two minutes following the activation of the new system.

That would be a monumental improvement from the busiest stretches of the pandemic when some unemployed workers reported waiting hours on the phone.

Healy said it’s mostly simple – VEC staffers don’t need to call to get basic information anymore as it's provided through updated online forms, plus fewer claimants need to call VEC for help.

“If they were receiving benefits or in an appeals or adjudication process, it was very hard for our call centers to access that information through our old technology system. It will be easier for our call centers now," Healy said

Plus, tax forms, PINs, monetary determination letters and ID verifications are all available online. Previously, claimants needed to wait on mailed documents.

"I know it’s going to be a huge win for the VEC, especially our processing of adjudications, with that additional information it’s not a go back, call between, upload documents, mail them in, scan them, put them back on the files, that sort of work," she said.

The VEC still has a backlog of a few thousand adjudication cases, but with the number of weekly unemployment claims dropping to regular levels, Healy said she expects the VEC will be fully caught up in the next few months.

She said the VEC was underfunded for years, and there’s now better awareness of the need to have and maintain a reliable unemployment safety net.

"We're making sure this system was well funded and up to date and modernized in case this ever happens again."

So far in 2021, Virginia ranks 49th in the country at resolving disputed unemployment claims within three weeks – the federally recommended timeline.

State unemployment leaders said the new online system will help improve this ranking.