NORFOLK, Va. - Out of work for months and unable to pay his bills, Jason Yeary fears what’s next.
“This is my third month now, and I’m scared to wait and get an eviction either on my door or in the mail,” said the Norfolk resident.
Yeary lost his job as a duct mechanic with a heating and cooling company back in May. He said he hasn’t been able to find work because he’s over-qualified for most jobs.
“I’ve put in applications from the 7-Eleven across the street from me all the way to Harris Teeter and down the road,” he said. “Either Dollar General, the gas stations, 7-Eleven, Harris Teeter - all of them, they see what I was used to making and none of them have hired me or even considered me, because they’re probably paying $8 or $9 an hour when I’m used to making $18 or $20 an hour.”
Yeary filed for unemployment benefits and now has to wait to speak with a hearing officer from the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) about his case.
Yeary said he’s been waiting for more than three months and still doesn’t have a hearing or check in sight. Meantime, he’s struggling to put food on the table.
“I do have food stamps but it’s not enough for a month,” he said. “I can’t even buy dog food.”
The number of unemployment claims across the state is continuing to slowly decline, but many families are still struggling six months after the start of the crisis.
A spokesperson with the VEC told News 3 since last month, they’ve doubled the amount of claims they’re resolving from 5,000 a week to more than 10,000 a week.
However, there are still 80,000 people waiting for unemployment hearings, and that number hasn’t changed since mid-June. According to the VEC, claimants are waiting up to eight weeks for case reviews.
State lawmaker Del. Will Wampler (R-4th District) said the agency’s system is overloaded but is processing claims as fast it can.
“We’re here to help; VEC is here to help,” he said. “Just be patient with them.”
Wampler said it’s unfortunate that people are getting left behind in the system.
“We cannot afford to have people sitting on sidelines and not working,” said Wampler. “That’s what keeps this whole system going. We’ve got to have people back at work and our economy reopened in a way that Virginia can rebound from this virus.”
The agency has recently hired about 70 people to work on hearings alone.
For Yeary, he’s afraid he’s run out of options.
“I haven’t been able to pay anything,” Yeary said. “Actually, I haven’t been able to anything since June.”
A spokesperson for the governor’s office, who works closely with the employment commission, told News 3 she’s personally looking into Yeary’s case.