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Judge signs order requiring VEC to fix backlog, issues

Updated: May. 25, 2021 at 11:26 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Tuesday, a judge signed an order that requires the Virginia Employment Commission to speed up the processing of unemployment claims. It comes after a consumer rights group sued the Commission for failing to process claims and get people their money in a timely manner.

The judge and parties met to discuss how to solve the issues at the VEC as quickly as possible.

Fifty-eight-year-old Mark McGlocklin of Henrico is waiting to see just how soon this will help him get back on his feet. He lost his job because of the pandemic, and now, he’s at his wit’s end.

“I was a coast to coast truck driver for 28 years hauling produce, and I worked up in North Dakota in 50 below zero work for seven years,” McGlocklin said pointing to his pride for working a job. It’s why he was glad to get a position with a Henrico transportation company. Until he got the call last year, there was no longer a need for his services. “Right now the coronavirus is making it tough on everybody.”

He has been depending on unemployment. He got it for eight months, but due to a problem accessing his account, he hasn’t received any benefits in the past four weeks.

“There’s no phone number that no one answers over at the VEC…There’s no one to call to say ‘please get me back in the computer’,” McGlocklin said.

It’s issues like these the Legal Aid Justice Center heard far too many of.

“Some of the people who called us were waiting far longer than a few months. Some were waiting many months or almost a year…They were telling us ‘I can’t pay my rent. I can’t buy food,” so it was very dire for these people,” Attorney Brenda Castaneda said.

It’s why the group met with the VEC on Tuesday to come to a resolution before a judge. The judge ordered the commission to eliminate its backlog in claims by Labor Day. The judge also wants the commission to process 10,000 cases a week come July and 20,000 cases come August. Also in the order, the VEC is being told to figure out whose benefits were wrongly cut off and get those people paid.

“It’s been a year since the beginning of the pandemic, more of than a year actually, and so we felt it was time the VEC should’ve fixed it already,” Castaneda added.

“If there would’ve been somebody I could’ve called or reached out to to say ‘hey, I’m having a problem over here,’ but there’s no one, nobody to call,” McGlocklin said.

Last week, the governor directed the VEC to invest $20 million in speeding up payment. The VEC says it is now doing just that, hiring hundreds of new workers. Since the pandemic, the commission says it received 10 times the number of claims it did from the previous year.

The judge’s order pauses the proposed class-action lawsuit filed on April 15 by the LAJC and other partners.

According to the LAJC, the judge’s order became effective immediately and also requires the VEC to do the following:

  • Quickly and immediately process adjudications for many applicants who are covered by Pandemic Unemployment benefits but have had to first await adjudication.
  • Require state identification and better coordination of various alternate housing, food, and income benefits available to applicants in financial difficulty.
  • Subject the VEC’s new performance standards and deadlines to judicial supervision and require weekly information sharing to make that possible.

“The VEC is grateful that Judge Hudson has recognized the hard work of our employees throughout this pandemic, and we will continue to ensure Virginians have access to all benefits for which they are eligible. The VEC is focused on serving our customers, and we are committed to continuing the important work our team is doing for their fellow Virginians,” said Commissioner Ellen Marie Hess.

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