Despite decrease in unemployment claims, some say they still can't get through to VEC offices

unemployment generic
Posted at 3:37 PM, Jul 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-14 09:41:44-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - The Virginia Employment Commission says unemployment claims continue to decrease, but some people are reporting problems pertaining to their claims.

Certified nursing assistant Anita Savage is out of work and filed for unemployment months ago.

“It’s been a complete nightmare. I got one week of money and then after that, everything stopped,” said Savage.

Savage said there was a mix-up with her Social Security number, a problem she said she is struggling to resolve.

“We have no answers. We can't get hold of anyone. No one is responding to any emails and calls,” said Savage.

Currently, the VEC said they have paid a total of $5.7 billion in benefits since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This has been an extreme strain on the system.

“Almost 75% of the almost 1,000,000 claims have been paid,” said Joyce Fogg, the Virginia Employment Commissions Communications Manager.

VEC officials said some people believe they are eligible for benefits when they are not, and said other times there are problems with their information in the system.

“They have quit a job, they have been fired from a job, there’s some reason; they put the wrong bank information in or the wrong Social Security number,” said Fogg.

She said it is not just a matter of people not getting their money. She said there is wrong information somewhere.

The VEC said they have hired more people to answer phone calls and emails.

“We have a new call center third-party call center, and they’ve answered over 40,000 calls a week,” said Fogg.

Many VEC offices are closed and are only taking phone calls, but others are open by appointment only. Fogg said they plan to have more offices open within the next few weeks.

News 3 tried calling several of the local offices Monday.

The Hampton office was busy each time we called. You can leave messages at the other offices in Norfolk and Portsmouth.

We spoke to someone at the Eastern Shore location.

VEC encourages people to email the offices directly with questions.

For those struggling, each day is difficult.

“We're now reaching a point where we've almost exhausted our savings and we are now we've had to sell things just to pay our bills,” said Savage.

“In the past 16 weeks, there have been a total of 938,559 initial claims filed in Virginia, surpassing all initial claims filed from mid-September 2014 to mid-March 2020. For the filing week ending July 4, the figure for seasonally unadjusted initial claims in Virginia was 31,825. The latest claims figure was a decrease of 130 claimants from the previous week. The 378,607 continued claims is an increase of 11,893 from the prior week. Currently, the VEC has paid a total of $5.7 billion in benefits since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to an official statement from the VEC.

Click here for more information on how to contact the VEC.

Click here for full coronavirus coverage.