Nine of Loudoun’s representatives in the state legislature have signed onto a letter to the Virginia Employment Commission concerned about poor service in the face of a surge in demand.
The commission offers help for people looking for work, veterans, and employers, as well as unemployment benefits. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, its services have been in high demand.
But according to the 43 state legislators that signed a letter to the commission’s head, Commissioner Ellen Marie Hess, it has not always met the need.
“This pandemic, coupled with the astronomical number of new benefit claims, has highlighted some problems that, in turn, have made it harder for our offices to fulfill our duties to our constituents,” the legislators wrote. “Specifically, these problems include inaccessibility of the VEC via phone or online, a lack of initial or follow up communication with claimants, the use of a complicated and outdated online system, and an overall lack of transparency with claimants throughout the process.”
Local signers include Dels. Suhas Subramanyam (D-87), Kathleen Murphy (D-34), David A. Reid (D-32), Ibraheem Samirah (D-86), Wendy W. Gooditis (D-10), Karrie K. Delaney (D-67), and Sens. Barbara A. Favola (D-31), John J. Bell (D-87), and Jennifer B. Boysko (D-33).
“Life is already difficult enough when you lose your job because of COVID-19’s impact on the economy,” Subramanyam stated. “It makes it even more disheartening when I hear from so many Loudoun families are having trouble getting through to the VEC and are not getting their benefits in a timely manner. We must fix this issue, and I stand ready and willing to push for any resources we need to get it done. In the meantime, our office is available 24/7 to assist constituents in resolving any issues with VEC.”
The legislators asked the commission to make establishing an online portal its top priority. They also asked to work together on ideas for legislation to introduce at the 2021 session. A review of the VEC’S operations by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission is still pending, delayed by the pandemic.
The letter also asks the that VEC work with the U.S. Department of Labor to ensure it adjudicates claims in line with regulations developed by the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health program.
“The purpose of VEC is first and foremost to help employees who have lost their job, their income, their financial security, and are trying to navigate a bureaucratic nightmare in filing for unemployment,” the letter reads. “Our current unemployment system cannot be sustained in this rapidly changing climate with historic levels of unemployment. The system penalizes workers for being out of a job through no fault of their own. We must do more to help Virginians navigate these uncertain times.”
This article was updated Monday, July 20 at 11:26 a.m. to correct an error in the list of signers to the letter.