The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) announced Thursday that 822,300 initial unemployment claims have been filed since March 15.
Approximately 75 percent of these claims have been approved and received payment, with more than $3.8 billion distributed to people who have lost wages during the COVID-19 pandemic.
By comparison, during the Great Recession of 2007-2009, the payment rate was 42 percent, an all-time high at that point.
For the filing week ending June 6, the figure for seasonally unadjusted initial unemployment claims in Virginia was 29,231. The latest claims figure was a decrease of 2,148 claimants from the previous week.
For the most recent filing week, continued weeks claimed totaled 396,056, down 2,355 from the previous week but 376,977 higher than the 19,079 continued claims from the comparable week last year.
In response to current demand, the commission has added more than 200 employees and is averaging more overtime hours each month during the pandemic than during all of 2019. Phone calls to the commission’s call-centers – and staffing at those call centers – have quadrupled.
“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 said.
The Virginia Employment Commission oversees the state Unemployment Insurance program, as well as new federal unemployment benefits programs created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the new federal programs, as well as through executive action by Gov. Ralph Northam, eligibility criteria for unemployment benefits have expanded. Nevertheless, not all applicants will qualify for payment.
During today’s news conference, commission staff reviewed 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. By comparison, approximately 59,000 hearings were conducted in all of 2019.