The recent news of $930 million in overpayments being made by the Virginia Employment Commission — including $70 million in fraudulent payments — in the wake the COVID crisis have many Virginia policymakers and politicians fuming over the mismanagement.
But don’t blame the VEC for catching grenades.
Ned Oliver with Virginia Mercury reports that it took over 14 months for the Northam administration to respond to requests for help after the COVID crisis began to overwhelm the VEC’s physical capacity to handle the calls:
Auditors also say that in addition to entering the pandemic short staffed, it took more than a year for the agency to make significant headway in addressing the problem.
They noted that a majority of the 200 full time adjudication positions added during the pandemic were not created until 2021.
And outside contractors, who now represent most of the agency’s adjudication manpower, weren’t brought in until April, 14 months into the pandemic and after they were facing a lawsuit from claimants stuck in the queue.
When other state agencies were asked to assist with manpower?
Zero: The number of state employees at outside agencies who responded to VEC’s request for temporary help.
This figure comes via Healy, the secretary of labor, who noted Thursday that the employment commission was initially limited in its efforts to bring on additional staff.
Under state personnel rules, the agency couldn’t unilaterally reassign employees from other agencies. But they did ask for volunteers.
Healy said there were no takers.
The buck stops somewhere — but certainly not with the VEC.