Hampton Roads, Va. – Recent numbers from the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) show that the unemployment rate fell to 8.4 percent in June, meaning fewer people have been out of work since the epidemic began.
Nevertheless, there are many questions about the system.
After a three-month wait, after more than 14 weeks of equalization, Martinique finally got a reply from the state’s employment commission.
The agency’s response to her unemployment claim left her with even more questions.
“For them to say that you will get this amount, for them now saying that you are not going to get anything, I do not understand,” Martinique said.
News3 first met the 34-year-old in May. At this point she waited nine weeks since the first filing for partial unemployment benefits on 22 March. A week later, Martinique said that the VEC had sent her a monetary determination letter stating what her weekly benefits would be.
After dozens of failed attempts to reach the VEC, she finally heard back from the agency on 20 June. VEC sent a brief email in which Martinique said that he earned more money than he had approved, eventually denying him any profit.
“They have closed my entire account, so I don’t even have a file with them anymore,” she said.
Martic, who was a shift supervisor at Chick-Fil-A, said while she may have made more money in a few weeks, there were a few more weeks where she was not. In those instances, he should be eligible for some monetary compensation.
“I still feel like I should have sent something, but like I said they are not going to send me anything now,” Martinique said. “It’s like a joke.”
A spokesman for the governor’s office, who works closely with the VEC, believes that something may be wrong, and is now personally looking into Martinique’s case.
Meanwhile, VEC said that it should be easy to get people through customer service. In the past two weeks, more employees have been hired to help them double the amount of calls they are answering to 60,000 per week.
This is still not enough for the 43 state legislators who sent a letter to VEC Commissioner Hayes on July 16, reforming and fully reviewing its system by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC).
State legislators said they are ready to support the VEC with additional funding, staffing or legislation in future sessions of the General Assembly.
“This epidemic has shown significant gaps in our safety net programs, which is an unemployment that is our unemployment system. We must position VEC to better serve Virginia employees. I look forward to continuing to work with VEC and my partners in implementing solutions for improvement, ”said Delegate Kelly Converse-Fowler (D-Virginia Beach).
VEC responded in a letter and said it welcomed more in-depth discussion and opportunities.
“We are ready to work with you and other legislators and look forward to dealing with these complex issues affecting workers and businesses across the Commonwealth and to engage in future negotiations,” VEC Commissioner Ellen Marie Hayes said.
The letter stated, “In 2017, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission was directed to review the operations and performance of the VEC. However, it is important to remember that the General Assembly directed the JLARC to prioritize studies on gaming and casinos prior to the VEC review. As a result, JLARC has not yet initiated a review of VEC. We look forward to assisting JLARC staff in reviewing the operations and performance of the Commission. VEC staff members have a good working relationship with JLARC staff, and we value their expertise.
“Meanwhile, the VEC has made significant efforts to improve delivery of services, streamline processes and better serve the public, working within the complex framework of state and federal laws. We have expanded call-center facilities, initiated third-party technology partnerships and modernized our digital platforms. “
Martinique believes that the VEC’s system should be reorganized.
“I still want to know why everything is just that,” she said. “If you’re not really going to help then what is the point of this happening.”
Individuals who have been denied unemployment benefits are urged to appeal, and to apply for the Epidemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.