Ned Oliver at the Virginia Mercury opines on the current backlog with the Virginia Employment Commission, stating that while 86% of claims are filed in the first three weeks, the backlog of 90,000 cases is ranking Virginia as the worst state in the nation for filing claims:
Applicants caught in the bureaucratic limbo have been left waiting as long as five months for the state to decide whether their claims are valid and to begin issuing payments. And at the current rate, U.S. Department of Labor data shows it could easily take more than a year for an applicant to exhaust the appeals process.
“It makes you feel like you’re alone and no one cares,” said Leola Webb, a 36-year-old office worker who lost her job in Northern Virginia when the coronavirus pandemic began. She applied for benefits in late May but said she received no aid and no word on whether she could expect help until last week, when the state finally contacted her to determine whether she quit or was dismissed.
When asked point blank about why the backlog was so enduring and long, Northam administration officials shrugged off the complaints, saying that the backlog was the result of
State Senator Bill DeSteph (R-Virginia Beach) took the Northam administration to task for yet another failure:
Virginia State Senator Bill DeSteph just sent a letter to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam saying “People call VEC 30 times a day. Never get through and get hung up on after waiting for hours.”
“And frankly the response has gotten worst not better. We have people who have contacted us in March that haven’t had assistance from VEC. These cases haven’t been adjudicated and the Governor needs to address this and put the appropriate resources there,” says Senator Bill DeSteph (R-8th District)
It appears @BillDeSteph agrees with #7OnYourSide that Virginia & @GovernorVA have a major issue of non-payment of unemployment benefits to 70,000 residents. Here is the Senators letter to Gov Northam today. @ABC7News pic.twitter.com/tF6YUb7TbM
— Scott Taylor ABC 7 (@ScottTaylorTV) November 20, 2020
Taylor’s investigative reporting has encouraged others to speak up.
One woman in Virginia Beach noted that she had received nine VEC letters addressed to different people while waiting on her PIN to be reset so that she could track her unemployment benefits.
Delegate Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) doubled down on the criticism of the Northam-led VEC and Northam’s utterly lacking effort to fight the pandemic effectively or fairly:
Obviously, the blame cannot be laid at the feet of the employees of the Virginia Employment Commission. Nor should they be laid at the feet of Bill Walker, the Director of Unemployment Insurance at the VEC, who has to catch the grenades of a process and a system whose software is 35 years old.
That’s right — 1983.
The problem goes straight to the Executive Mansion, where apparently no one among Northam’s staff decided that paying attention to VEC benefits and whether Virginians could access these benefits was not a top priority in the greatest fiscal crisis since the Great Recession.
Either way, the fact that working families are not and have not been prioritized by Northam during the crisis, and the additional fact that his press conferences seem to inspire more terror than calm, represents not only a failure of leadership but a failure of justice.
Worst in the nation is nothing a Virginian should ever tolerate.