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VEC urged to modernize

As Virginia’s workers face record layoffs and weeks-long waits to receive unemployment benefits, 43 Virginia legislators urged the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) to review and modernize its processes in a letter to the commission.

The letter, signed by 34 delegates and nine state senators, asked the commission to conduct a thorough review of its systems and underscored the urgent need for the commission to establish a more robust online platform.

Data provided by VEC in an email to legislators this week cited 10,000 cases sent to VEC in the last month from legislative offices alone. Legislative offices have been told by the agency that most of these claims will require administrative adjudication before constituents can receive benefits–a process they say will take an additional four to eight weeks. Continued delays and extensive wait times place many Virginians in a precarious financial position.

“These 10,000 cases represent families who need help now. They need food and shelter and health care, now. We must find a way to eliminate delays. It’s not their fault they are unemployed. Give them at least a month of benefits while the cases are being adjudicated. How else do we expect them to survive? Anything less is inhumane,” Delegate Kathleen Murphy (D-Fairfax), vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said.

“My office has worked with countless individuals that have spent weeks, sometimes months, without receiving updates or resources. Adding this uncertainty to the stress every family is already feeling as a result of this pandemic is just compounding the burden in a manner which we simply cannot ignore. It is our duty as legislators to take swift action to ensure Virginians receive the help they so desperately need,” Delegate Lashrecse Aird (D-Petersburg) said.

The letter also encourages the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) to prioritize its planned review of the agency’s operations and performance.

“I commend VEC staff for their hard work and long hours trying to keep up with the unprecedented number of claims. While there are immediate actions that need to be taken to ensure transparency and better customer service to unemployed Virginians, I hope that JLARC is able to study the VEC’s operations and performance in order to inform legislative decisions to improve the unemployment system for the long term,” Delegate Betsy B. Carr (D-Richmond), treasurer of the House Democratic Caucus and member of JLARC, said.

State legislators are prepared to support the employment commission with additional funding, staffing, or legislation in future sessions of the General Assembly.

“This pandemic has shown significant gaps in our safety net programs, a glaring one being our unemployment system. We need to position the VEC to better serve Virginia employees. I look forward to continuing to work with VEC and my colleagues in implementing solutions for reform,” Delegate Kelly Convirs-Fowler (D-Virginia Beach), said.

“Constituents are calling my office every day in dire situations–many have been waiting months for information about their case despite calling VEC every day. This can’t wait any longer. Many Virginians could lose their housing, their savings, and their financial security if something doesn’t change quickly,” Delegate Chris Hurst (D-Blacksburg) said.