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Virginia Career Works in Roanoke explains role in assisting people with unemployment claims

Published: Mar. 17, 2021 at 6:25 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - In a follow-up to our investigation into issues involving the Virginia Employment Commission and many people still not receiving their unemployment benefits, WDBJ7 spoke to Virginia Career Works - Blue Ridge about common misunderstandings between the two organizations.

The Virginia Career Works is a state-run company that operates under the umbrella of America’s Job Centers with offices throughout the Commonwealth. Toni McLawhorn is the one-stop coordinator for the Blue Ridge region.

“Our center is a conglomeration of partners,” she said. “VEC is one partner.”

So while there are a few VEC representatives working in the building in Roanoke, they’re very limited in what they can do to help.

“Here in our resource room, we can help with that initial filing and help people get to the Gov2Go site and know how to set up their accounts and things like that,” McLawhorn said. “What we don’t have access to are the back end files that they have already claimed and might have questions about, which they would then need to see the VEC.”

Ever since issues began arising with people not receiving their unemployment benefits, the VCW has fielded calls from people wondering what got flagged on their accounts, when will their cases be adjudicated, and when can they expect their money.

Those are the questions that can’t be answered by the Virginia Career Works.

“What we don’t do is say, ‘Sorry, you called the wrong office. Here’s who you need to call,’” she said. “We do try to do what needs assessment and send it on for them.”

Another confusing issue is with the online appointment scheduling website. VCW has set the parameters of the site to only allow people to book up to two weeks in advance.

“Fourteen days to the minute, a new appointment will open up,” McLawhorn said. “So every fifteen minutes throughout the business day between 9:30-4 p.m. another appointment will open.”

This practice has confused many people because the website often says there are no times available in the next month and it looks like that’s the case for the rest of the year and even into 2022.

“We have tried to get that language changed, but it’s not something that can be changed,” she said.

McLawhorn added that as taxing as it may be to have to wait by the computer to try and snag one of these appointments, you it’s important to be patient.

“We tell people you just have to be persistent. You can’t just try once,” she said. “And I will have people write me and say, ‘It says it’s booked for a year!’ No, it’s not. It’s 14 days at the most.”

Just remember if you have personal account specific questions, it’ll be more beneficial to call 1-866-832-2363 a VEC representative directly or 1-800-897-5630 to file weekly claims over the phone.

“This pandemic put people in a position who have never had to deal with this type of situation before and have found themselves out of work and not knowing what to do,” McLawhorn said. “So they have to just really- and I know it’s hard to do- but they really have to stay positive and look ahead.”

Meanwhile, Virginia Career Works has lot of partners who can help people find jobs, get training and improve their resumes to help people get back into the work force. McLawhorn said it’s much easier to get a job if you already have one, and the larger the job gap, the harder it can be to find something.

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