RICHMOND, Va. - A long overdue update to Virginia's unemployment insurance online system is delayed once again.
The system that is used to apply for benefits was supposed to be down Wednesday so the state could make updates and get the new system ready for its Oct. 1 launch date.
But Tuesday morning, CBS 6 learned the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) was delaying that launch another month -- now setting sights on a November launch.
This delay comes just a week after the Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission's (JLARC) interim report stated they were concerned that all of the major risks associated with the roll-out of the new system had not been mitigated -- including the potential for a five to seven day blackout period when the new system was to roll-out.
Now, the VEC is telling claimants to prepare for the system to be down in late October. During that time, you won’t be able to file initial claims, weekly claims or access the VEC tax system.
This has the Legal Aid Justice Center worried because they don’t know what to expect, and are concerned about the potential delays that could come from this update.
"The JLARC report talked about a number of major challenges that haven't been fully resolved and could threaten things for the agency, for employers, and most importantly, from our concern for claimants who are still out there, waiting for benefits and trying to follow all the directions," explained Pat Levy-Lavelle, senior intake attorney for the Legal Aid Justice Center. "And so you know, we certainly hope that the new system is successful because a lot is riding on it, but we have a lot of concerns at this point."
The Legal Aid Justice Center filed a lawsuit against the VEC back in May.
Levy-Lavelle is also concerned because VEC staff just started receiving training on the new, modernized system three weeks ago.
A judge had ordered the VEC and the Legal Aid Justice Center to come up with an agreement by Sept. 25, but last week, the parties both filed for an extension until Oct. 15.
Levy-Lavelle said the judge denied the VEC's request for the lawsuit to be dismissed, and his organization wants to ensure the 136,000 Virginians whose accounts have been flagged as potentially fraudulent are clearly examined.
"We have no interest whatsoever in helping people that are actually engaged in fraud," said Levy-Lavelle. "But we've heard from dozens of people who are genuine claimants, with families who are hurting, trying to follow the steps do everything possible and are told, 'hey, there's some sort of fraud issue on your claim, you're not going to get benefits, you might at some point, but you're not now.' We'd like to work out a process where the VEC looks more closely at that group of 136,000.”
The Legal Aid Justice Center encourages Virginians who have trouble accessing the site to make sure to document their attempts to file a claim. They said those that aren’t paid will have proof they took the steps required on their end.
The process of modernizing an unemployment system typically takes between three to five years, according to experts.
Virginia’s system update began 12 years ago, and it was supposed to have been completed eight years ago.