Virginia unemployment system's temporary shutdowns add to frustration for claimants

Virginia Unemployment Commission
Posted at 12:12 PM, Dec 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-27 19:42:30-05

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Despite a major upgrade to the Virginia Employment Commission’s website last month, some people are still having issues with filing their claims.

The VEC will continue to temporarily shut down online unemployment claims for “maintenance” and to limit fraud, according to Joyce Fogg, a spokeswoman with the VEC.

Fogg said the online customer service portal is taken offline at least a couple times per week, sometimes more, adding everyone should be able to file by phone.

“The website is ‘down’ at times for routine maintenance (required by all systems) and updates to the system,” said Fogg. “At the present time, initial claims and continued claims can be filed by phone as indicated on the website. The wait time is less than two minutes. Payments are being made timely.”

The online portal was down Monday morning when News 3 checked, but after we repeatedly emailed the VEC about it, they alerted us it was back up around 2 p.m.

Frustration is mounting for Derick Williamson of Hampton. He said he hasn’t been able to refile his claim for partial unemployment and hasn’t received a check in several weeks.

“For over two months, I have not been able to get onto that portal,” said Williamson. “They once put me back in when they first put in the new system in November, but then it went down, and if it's down for more than 21 days, you have to refile and you have to start all over again. So that's where I'm at right now.”

Since the long-awaited upgrades launched in November, the system went offline for several weeks and at several points last week.

The VEC wouldn’t specify why the system needs to undergo so much maintenance in one week.

“We live in the 21st century,” Williamson said. “If a computer is malfunctioning, does it take over two months to get it up and running? What's going on? There's no answers.”

When Williamson calls the customer service reps to file a claim, he said they still can’t help him.

“The only thing they can say is, ‘I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry,’ but parents needed to buy their kids toys; they needed to put food on the table,” he said. “We're talking about raising…gas prices being up and all these things. Every little penny that people can get. I drive 80 miles a day, so if you asked me, I could have used that if nothing else, but just to put gas in the car.”

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin said fixing the ongoing issues with the system will be a challenge and will take time, adding when he takes office next month, that’ll be one of his main focuses.

“I think these are two areas of government where public service really has been let down, so we've got to make changes,” said Youngkin.

Williamson, who’s working part-time, is hopeful

“I’m okay,” said Williamson. “I can manage through it, but I want what I'm supposed to get just like most people.”

Unemployed Virginians who need to file an initial claim can call 1-866-832-2363, or 1-800-897-5630 for a weekly claim.

Related: Richmond woman still dealing with same issues after VEC system update