RICHMOND, Va. -- Earlier this week, a judge ordered the Virginia Employment Commission to clear the vast majority of its outstanding claim appeals, which number nearly 100,000, by Labor Day.
That is perhaps some comfort to the hundreds of viewers who tell CBS6 they cannot get through to the VEC to find out where their benefits are.
But a Virginia teacher who's been waiting ten months for her benefits isn't so sure.
“I have never heard anything back, and I started this process 10 months ago,” said Victoria Collins. “So for 10 months, I have not heard or had any communication regarding what my outstanding issue apparently is.”
The Fairfax County Special Education teacher was laid off a year ago and applied for benefits. She got them for about two months, but then they abruptly stopped.
She says she’s now running out of resources.
When I mentioned that the spokesperson for the VEC has told us repeatedly that there is a callback option for claimants, to guarantee them a chance to speak with a deputy at the VEC, Collins was adamant.
“I've never received, had the chance to get the callback option,” she said. “Like I said, I have tried to use their online chat feature. They have an email customer service, a VEC email, that you can use. I have tried it all. I've tried calling their call [center] number, which immediately hangs up. Even if you call at 8:15 in the morning, you're there right on the dot, you cannot get through.”
The divorced mother of an 11-year-old boy, like many women in these days of quarantine, and stay-at-home, has been caught between the pandemic shutting down classrooms and a child now at home learning virtually.
It seems because the ten-year veteran teacher had some leave time remaining, that has complicated her case. But she doesn’t know, because no one has told her. She says it’s hard to accept that a state like Virginia has such a dysfunctional claim process.
“It is unprecedented,” said Collins. “It is something that doesn't happen every day. But a year later, between the time this whole pandemic started, we have a vaccine now. So we've been able to get a vaccine, but we can't get the unemployment fixed."
Despite a judge ordering the VEC to speed up that process, Collins says her biggest fears are never far away.
“Even though we have a vaccine, things are still not 100% back to normal,” she said. “And so, there was a lot of fear, and there is still fear for me because I still have not received any correspondence or communication. There's a lot of fear of, you know, okay, especially about eviction."
We sent Collins' information to VEC spokeswoman Joyce Fogg who said she could not comment. We have also asked repeatedly over a period of weeks for a chance to speak with VEC Commissioner Ellen Marie Hess.
Neither Fogg nor Hess has ever responded.
If you would like to help Collins out, you can visit her GoFundMe page.