RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia Employment Commission is leaving hundreds, maybe thousands, of Virginians in the lurch by not processing their claims in a timely fashion.
Renita Hall knows this experience first-hand.
"I tried to call them to get in contact with them, that was in December,” Hall said. “It’s now April, and I have not received a bit of money and they take my claim every week.”
It's a common problem heard over and over again. Virginians laid offduring the pandemic apply for their unemployment benefits, and then wait. And wait.
"They got an answering machine thing that tells you that you can talk to a live person,” Hall said. “You’ll get on the line, and once you wait about 45 minutes to an hour, it cuts right off so you never talk to anyone."
Hall was a full-time employee at a Walmart store in Ashland who was laid off at the end of last year.
Her application for benefits would seem to be straightforward: Anne Hatfield, Walmart's Global Director of Communications, confirmed Hall's job status. When Hatfield was asked via email, "Would you advise that I seek a response from VA's Employment Commission as to what might be holding up her benefits?" replied, "Yes, since this is about VA, not Walmart."
When that information was relied to VEC’s spokeswoman Joyce Fogg back on April 7, she did not respond.
The pattern of the VEC’s inaction has been noted by financial data website WalletHub, which says Virginia's response time to employment claims is near the worst in the nation.
"Virginia unfortunately, has kept that same outdated system intact, and is now dealing with the same types of lag times [that they had early on],” said Jill Gonzalez, a senior analyst at WalletHub. “In fact, the lag times have been increased exponentially, because the number of people trying to file has also increased."
That is why, four months and a day after her layoff and unemployment benefits application, Renita Hall is still waiting. Even with some of the legwork such as checking with her former employer already done.
"It's been very stressful,” said Hall.” I can't sleep because I try to get up early in the morning to be one of the first callers. I want my money, I deserve my money and I've been waiting. There's no reason why they shouldn't answer a person’s call or after you wait 45 minutes to talk to someone. It just cuts off, you talk to no one like they don't even care."
CBS 6 has asked repeatedly for a chance to sit down and talk with VEC Commissioner Ellen Marie Hess over the past several weeks.
And just like the hundreds of viewers who tell us they've not gotten any answers, we are still waiting for a response from Commissioner Hess's office.
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