New unemployment benefits: What Virginians need to know

On Thursday the VEC held a news briefing to discuss the launch of a third federal unemployment...
On Thursday the VEC held a news briefing to discuss the launch of a third federal unemployment benefit program(NBC12)
Updated: Dec. 30, 2020 at 11:13 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Millions of Virginians fear they may not be eligible for unemployment beyond Dec. 26 when coverage temporarily lapsed. But the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) says you’re still covered.

“My advice to those folks is that as long you are still unemployed you should continue to file those weekly claims,” William Walton.

Walton is the Deputy Commissioner at the VEC and has oversight over the state’s unemployment insurance program(U.I.) and its various support functions operated by the VEC.

Walton says the previous Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program (P.U.A.) under the CARES act allowed anyone who qualified like those who were self-employed or gig workers to receive up to 39 weeks of benefits. He adds that even though benefits did temporarily expire on December 26th after the Trump administration failed to sign the $900 billion pandemic relief package because the president signed the bill into law Sunday states were allowed to move forward and implement the new provisions provided for in the new piece of legislation.

“In effect, it will not mean that anybody loses out on any weeks of benefits,” Walton said. As far as an individual’s ability to claim weeks and ultimately be paid for weeks they’re eligible for, they should not lose out on any weeks.”

The new pandemic relief package tacks on additional 11 weeks of P.U.A. it also tacks on additional 11 weeks of Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits (PEUC).

All of the CARES Act unemployment compensation programs are extended for 11 weeks through March 13, 2021. These include:

  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)

“If I was a P.U.A. recipient I could receive 39 weeks under the old law and the new legislation gives you an additional 11 weeks for an ultimate total of 50 weeks of eligibility,” Walton said. “The same holds true for the maximum of regular U.I. and then ultimately 24 weeks under P.E.U.C. would bring me up to 50 weeks as well.”

The VEC says as long as you have been claiming weeks you should still receive those new benefits once available, but instead of $600, the payout will only be $300 on top of your base unemployment benefits whether you have regular U.I. or P.U.A.

“If you haven’t kept those claims active every week then the system will not know that you are owed money when we do have programming in place,” Walton said.

The first payable week for that legislation will be this coming Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021, But Walton says Virginians may see a slight delay in when you receive those benefits, because it will take time to put the new program in place at the state level, but the VEC ensures you will be back paid for any delays that may occur as long as you keep filing weekly unemployment claims.

“Let’s say you claimed three weeks and then we have the programming in place, it will pay you for those three weeks all at one time,” Walton said.

The new benefits will be payable until Mar. 13, 2021. At that point, the federal government would have to step in again to pass new legislation to extend those benefits further otherwise it would lapse again.

Walton says the VEC is working to improve the ease of filing weekly unemployment claims in addition to reaching the VEC for questions. The VEC says it was only expecting to process 95,000 unemployment claims in 2020, but because of the pandemic, more than 1.4 million people have filed unemployment claims which have increased the time it takes for the VEC to assist those in need of help.

For more information on the new unemployment benefits slated to go into effect Jan. 2, 2021 click HERE.

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