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Nearly 17,000 Virginians may not have unemployment benefits appeals heard. Are you one of them?

Thursday is the deadline for responding to the notices of potential dismissal, which were mailed Jan. 26.

RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Employment Commission recently notified almost 17,000 individuals that their unemployment benefits appeals will not be heard unless they can prove by Thursday that they did not file them too late.

The VEC notified 16,656 claimants and 191 employers that their appeals will be dismissed unless they can show they filed their request within 30 days of the initial decision or that they have a legitimate justification for missing the deadline, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

Thursday is the deadline for responding to the notices of potential dismissal, which were mailed Jan. 26.

The Virginia Poverty Law Center advised individuals dealing with the notice to take several steps, including responding to the VEC by the Thursday deadline with proof of the response and including certain documentation.

Flannery O'Rourke with the Virginia Poverty Law Center said her organization has answered dozens of phone calls about this ongoing matter. O'Rourke said appeal applications take roughly a year to complete from the time they are filed to the day they are in a hearing.

"It's real tough. You don't assume that when you mail a state agency a document that years later, that you are going to have to prove that you mailed it on time. And how exactly do you do that?" asked O'Rourke.

Proof could come in several different ways, including medical and personal emergencies. However, some Hampton Roads residents tell 13News Now that communication with the VEC has broken down so much that they do not know if they are one of the thousands impacted.

"I wouldn't hear from them for six months to a year, but then [they] give you, conveniently, less than two weeks to file your appeal," said Daniel Craig, who was submitting his second appeal to VEC. "I was always on top of that so they might have sent me something else, but honestly, I have no idea."

VEC Commissioner Carrie Roth told the newspaper that the agency developed the initiative to address the current backlog of nearly 93,000 appeals in consultation with the U.S. Department of Labor, which agreed to the plan on Jan. 11. The agency, like others around the country, struggled to keep pace with surging unemployment insurance applications during the pandemic and is still working through related backlogs.

But advocates for the unemployed have raised serious concerns. Marty Wegbreit, director of litigation at the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, said the move represents “a vast denial of due process of law.”

The form is due with no exceptions on February 16. 

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