VEC hiring 315 extra workers as many still wait for unemployment benefits

Posted at 11:19 PM, May 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-28 23:44:37-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - James Baker is the father of a young son, a daughter and has another little girl on the way. Presley is expected to make her debut in the Friday morning.

“It’s surreal,” Baker said. “Pretty much right now it’s just a waiting game.”

The Virginia Beach resident has also been waiting on something else.

Baker filed and was approved for unemployment benefits two months ago and he’s still waiting for his first check. With a new baby, bills mounting, and no luck finding work as an industrial painter, Baker said it’s been stressful.

“It can be deflating almost because I’ve never had to ask for help,” he said.

New numbers out from the state employment commission show 402,926 Virginians have now filed for unemployment since the start of the pandemic. That number is 100,000 more claims that were filed during the Great Recession from December 2007 to June 2009.

More help is on the way to help with the overwhelmed system. The VEC said they’ve hired an additional 315 people to handle the backlog. The new hires are in training now and are expected to start in a couple of weeks.

The VEC also said they also hired an extra 200 people one month ago.

“It’s just been dead end, after dead end, after dead end,” Baker said.

Baker said he’s called customer service nearly every day for the last 60 days before getting through.

“I waited, waited, waited and finally had someone pick up the phone from the 1-866 number; they would say it was a technical issue, but they definitely picked up the phone, said, 'hello' and soon as I started to state my issue, they hung up on me,” he said. “I was like, 'Oh, wow.'”

News 3 has an update on Frank, the contractor we told you about the other week. He said after a week of phone calls, he was finally told his Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) would come through at the end of June.

After going on nine weeks without a payment, Frank said he now has to dip into his 401(k).

“Pretty soon, I’m going to be out of money,” he said.

The VEC is aware of the calling issues that has to do with the overwhelming amount of calls. They said keep calling until you get through and try calling on Saturdays between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. when call volume is lower. They assured News 3 that employees are working after hours to catch up on the backlog.

Meantime, the VEC said people who are filing a claim and are still waiting for a check should continue to certify benefits every week.

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