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Court Orders Virginia Employment Commission To Resolve Payment Delays

employment office
File Photo: The Virginia Employment Commission office in downtown Richmond in 2019. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Last month, legal aid groups sued Virginia’s Employment Commissioner on behalf of residents who either hadn’t received their unemployment benefits or whose payments were cut off unexpectedly. 

Following court-ordered mediation, the agreement was filed Tuesday committing the VEC to ramp up its capacity to resolve claims and clear the backlog for those people who have been waiting more than 21 days for their benefits - by Labor Day. 

The commission will inspect records to identify people whose benefits have been cut off and work to resume their payments. It will also provide weekly data on the number of claims filed and adjudicated and report progress on resolving the backlog. 

“It’s going to be really helpful for us to be able to see what is happening - how things are going, said Pat Levy-Lavelle, an attorney at Legal Aid Justice Center, one of the groups  representing claimants who are waiting for benefits. 

Levy-Lavelle said the order is a good first step.

“We’re going to be looking for progress longer term, as to whether adjudication rates speed up and the amount of time people are waiting hopefully trends downward,” Levy-Levelle said. 

Last week, Gov. Ralph Northam directed VEC to speed up processing of unemployment claims. The directive requires the agency to add 300 new adjudication staffers, make immediate technology upgrades and complete a full modernization of the Commonwealth’s unemployment insurance system by October 1, 2021.

In a press release, Northam’s office said Virginia’s unemployment system is one of the lowest-funded systems in the country and, until the pandemic, these problems were hidden by years of low unemployment and a consistently strong economy.