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Virginians share frustrating experiences with Virginia Employment Commission

Published: Mar. 15, 2021 at 6:51 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - For months, WDBJ7 has received dozens of emails and phone calls from people struggling to get answers from the Virginia Employment Commission about their missing unemployment benefits. Most of them said while they were confused as to why they hadn’t gotten their promised unemployment benefits, they were even more frustrated that they could never get a hold of anyone with the VEC to find out why.

For 36 weeks after the coronavirus was declared a global pandemic, the federal government offered Pandemic Unemployment Assistance to help people who were unable to work.

People like Celina Robinson from Leesville, who couldn’t return to work because schools had closed for in-person learning and she had to stay home with her son and special needs sister.

“I filed in May and I started receiving it,” Robinson said. “And it was clockwork. It was perfect.”

But in December, the first round of benefits ended and the new 13-week extension began in January. That’s when everything went awry.

“I filed January 2nd and nothing,” Robinson said. “I filed January 9th, absolutely nothing. It said my account was zero.”

And she wasn’t the only one WDBJ7 spoke to who said the exact same thing.

“I’ve just been filing every week and nothing,” Kendra Luckett said. “It’s been terrible.”

Luckett is from Bristol, Virginia. She told me the wait to get her next round of unemployment benefits has taken a significant toll on her mental health.

“I’m depressed,” she said. “Like, I’m not myself. I’m not used to this. I’m isolated in my place because I’m depressed. I’m not working. I’m not used to this. I’ve been working for forever.”

“It’s hard because you try to stay strong,” Neisha Ringgold from Norfolk said.

After receiving unemployment benefits regularly in 2020, Ringgold was approved for PUA extension benefits in January. She’s filed every week for the last 13 weeks and has never received any funds.

“When you know you’re trying to do everything you can, but it just seems like you’re not getting anywhere,” Ringgold said.

And took make matters worse, all three women say every time they reached out to the VEC, no one answered their phone calls and the emails were vague and unhelpful.

“I’ve tried calling and emailing everybody,” Ringgold said.

Robinson added the emails she did receive were full of grammatical errors.

“Very unprofessional,” she said. “There’s no punctuation. There’s no periods. There’s no stoppage, [starting point]. No capitals, no sentences. It’s all blended together.”

That has left her and the others with more questions than answers.

“When are they going to get their act together? I mean people need their money,” Robinson said.

WDBJ7 took many of their concerns directly to the Virginia Employment Commission. We’ll share that part of the story Monday, March 15 at 6 p.m. in our special report, Broke in the Commonwealth.

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