Unemployment claims more than double in Virginia; what you need to know if you’re suddenly jobless

10 On Your Side

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Coronavirus is a disease that’s not only harming the health of Virginia’s workforce — it’s also impacting the health of the Commonwealth’s economy.

Thousands of Virginians are out of work since the COVID-19 outbreak led to the closures of schools, governments, and nonessential businesses across the state.

10 On Your Side is dedicated to helping you understand unemployment and seek help during this unprecedented time. Here we will provide you the most up-to-date information on unemployment: The data, how to apply, and how the state and federal governments plan to help.

Unemployment by the numbers

More than 6.6 million Americans filed initial unemployment claims last week, including 114,104 Virginians, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

An initial claim is the first claim filed by an employee after they lose their job.

Last week’s national statistics are record breaking. The week before, about 3.3 million Americans filed initial unemployment claims. Before the coronavirus outbreak, the record for initial unemployment claims filed in the United States was set in October 1982 when 695,000 Americans filed for benefits, according to the DOL.

Almost every state saw unemployment claims increase. There were three states where claims declined — Rhode Island, Nevada, and Minnesota — but their data still shows that the level of claims filed was significant, according to ODU’s Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy.

Virginia’s statistics show that initial unemployment claims more than doubled in the Commonwealth last week compared to the week before. Initial filings increased by 67,827 in the week of March 28 compared to the week of March 21 when 46,277 Virginians filed for benefits.

The data shows that about 3.5% of Virginia’s civilian population has filed an unemployment claim, according to ODU’s Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy.

Virginia’s most recent data is a stark contrast from what the workforce looked like just three weeks ago. In the week of March 14, Virginians filed 2,706 initial unemployment claims. The week before that, 2,527 Virginians filed initial claims for unemployment benefits.

ODU’s Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy is keeping a careful eye on unemployment claims data in Virginia.

According to a March 31 press release from ODU’s economists, the following Virginia cities and counties have seen large increases in unemployment claims in a one-week period:

  • Fairfax County: 4,345 claims
  • Virginia Beach: 3,222 claims
  • Richmond: 2,958 claims
  • Prince William County: 2,132 claims
  • Henrico County: 2,017 claims

Economists at ODU predict that unemployment will exceed 10% nationally and in Virginia as the coronavirus pandemic continues to close economic industries.

“While the defense industry in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia does provide a buffer from some layoffs, the declines in hospitality, leisure and retail employment will be unprecedented in the coming weeks. While expanded unemployment benefits may provide some relief to workers who are laid off, a longer period of income support for workers and small businesses may be necessary to avoid a prolonged recession,” ODU’s economists said in a news release.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s data on unemployment claims in Virginia for 2020:

Filing for unemployment

On April 3, Gov. Ralph Northam said that the COVID-19 crisis is “overwhelming” Virginia’s unemployment system.

“People have had issues. People have had issues with our website,” he said.

Northam said that VEC has upgraded its website, expanded server capacity, and call center staff will be increased by 20%.

The Department of Labor will provide unemployment benefits who did not previously qualify for unemployment but do now under the CARES Act.

Filing for unemployment can be daunting, especially if it’s your first time seeking benefits. You can file for unemployment with the Virginia Employment Commission online, which is the preferred method.

VEC has created a video on how to file for unemployment:

Here are the steps:

Remember: You will need to file for unemployment weekly. Return to VEC’s website and use your PIN to file for unemployment benefits every week as long as you are out of work. VEC recommends filing continuing unemployment claims on Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday of each week.

VEC is updating its website with several important notices to people who are filing claims. We will also post those notices here:

Important: Effective March 15, Gov. Ralph Northam suspended the one-week waiting period for filing, as well as the requirement to conduct a weekly job search.

Important: The Virginia Employment Commission is working with the U.S. Department of Labor to modify its system to align with the newly-passed CARES Act. This will provide $600 in additional unemployment benefits to those who qualify. The new law also applies to people who weren’t previously eligible for unemployment benefits, including business owners, independent contractors, nonprofit employees, and gig-economy workers. To learn more about how the CARES Act will impact your unemployment, visit this page.

Important: VEC’s online claim filing system is working, but it is not sending confirmation numbers. Claims are being received and VEC is working on fixing the online error.

If you are looking for work during the coronavirus pandemic, 10 On Your Side has also put together a list of employers that are hiring. We are updating that list as information becomes available.

How the government plans to help

There are several plans in the works to provide federal aid to workers who are unemployed due to COVID-19.

  • The federal government is likely to pass a stimulus package that will result in one-time payments to Americans. If adopted, the government plans to issue this money to individuals whether they are unemployed or working. Single adults will receive $1,200. Married couples will receive $2,400. Families will receive $500 per child they claim on their taxes. These amounts are accurate for people earning up to $75,000, but the amount starts to lessen the more you make above that amount. People earning more than $99,000 — or couples making more than $198,000 — do not qualify.
  • Congress has passed a $2 trillion COVID-19 relief package. This money will benefit workers who need to file for unemployment. It also opens up unemployment filings to business owners, people who work multiple part-time jobs, and contractors. These benefits are in addition to the stimulus checks the federal government plans to send to Americans.
  • Virginia’s SNAP program will issue emergency benefits during the COVID-19 crisis. These benefits will provide families with money for food.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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