NORFOLK, Va. — The Virginia Employment Commission has finished its programming of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance extension program, and qualified workers can once again apply for benefits.
Unemployed independent contractors and self-employed workers can now apply for additional benefits through the Gov2Go site. A VEC spokesperson said payments will start on Feb. 2.
At the same time, 15,000 Virginians are still waiting for reviews or adjudications of their outstanding unemployment claims.
Dexter McNair, an unemployed IT specialist in Virginia Beach, filed for benefits in July.
“I haven’t been denied or accepted so I don’t know what the status is, but at the meantime I’m getting no financial assistance," McNair said.
He said bills are piling up, and he’s praying for some relief. VEC employees can’t help him over the phone.
“When I have gotten through, they’ll tell me 'We see your information, unfortunately there’s nothing we can do, you’ll have to wait for adjudication,'" McNair said. "That’s been for the entire six months.”
In December, following legal pressure and a directive from the Governor's office, VEC changed its policy to pay weekly benefits up front while claimants wait on reviews and adjudication.
At that time, VEC said there were 75,000 claims awaiting adjudication.
Based on the new policy, if a person received benefits but then was later deemed ineligible, they'd be required to pay that money back.
The policy shift was supposed to help get money to people more quickly, so they wouldn't wait months for a review. McNair said that hasn't happened for him.
"We’re getting a lot of people suffering who don’t have to suffer," he said. “It’s beyond overwhelming - I can’t understand it.”
A VEC spokesperson said the commission is now focusing on people, like McNair, who have outstanding claims needing review who haven't received any benefits.
She said VEC had been working through claims of people who received some benefits that were then cut short, due to a contested claim.
While the PUA extension goes live, VEC is still programming a PEUC program extension.
VEC reports 80,000 people are waiting for a second round of PEUC payments, but that program likely won’t be ready for another two weeks.
More details on the timelines of benefits programs are being posted on the Virginia Employment Commission website, here.