Regional unemployment claims drop as Lost Wages Assistance program nears first payouts

Published: Sep. 22, 2020 at 7:24 PM EDT
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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - Plenty of signs say “open” in our area.

It’s one of the marks of falling unemployment claims throughout our region.

“Unemployment peaked in May in large part and has come back down now to a place that’s roughly half of where we were at the peak," said Tim Saunders, Virginia Career Works - Central Region business engagement and outreach coordinator.

Saunders says the trend mirrors that of the state.

According to data from the Virginia Employment Commission, in our region, continued claims are down 57 percent from May’s peak.

First-time claims are down 95 percent since early April.

Even with this in mind, new help will kick in soon.

“This is a grant that is available to those who file for unemployment in Virginia right now and they don’t have to do anything additional to receive it. It will automatically come to them as long as they’re getting anywhere between $100 to $378 a week in their unemployment benefit," said Saunders.

Virginia was approved for the Lost Wages Assistance program in August, but payments will begin September 30.

Those who are eligible will receive an extra $300 per week.

Saunders says no extra work will need to be done to get that money.

“Those who do qualify will receive retroactive payments going back to the week of August 1," said Saunders.

Ben Bowman with Virginia Career Works says there’s still work to be done, though, to get unemployment to pre-pandemic levels.

“I think we really need to be about helping folks, in some cases plot a new path forward for their career and that may involve some re-training, some re-skilling," said Bowman, Central Virginia Workforce Development Board executive director.

According to the Virginia Employment Commission, the number of initial claims across the state has surpassed the recession of 2008.

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