People denied unemployment benefits still waiting for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance to kick in


CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Raeven Lee, of Chesapeake, was excited about finding a job in March. Then, COVID-19 forced her new company to lay her off. So, she was looking for a job again, but this time unable to collect unemployment.

“It has been very frustrating,” Lee said as her 2-year-old daughter sat on her lap during an interview earlier this week.

Lee had found a job as a call center representative for Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and that was good news after she had been laid off from her last position in October. It meant she’d have the income to take care of her son and two daughters.

Until that job also disappeared.

“They laid us off after three weeks due to the pandemic, so I wasn’t even at the job for a month when I was laid off again,” Lee said.

She applied for state unemployment, but because she had already been collecting after the first layoff, she was denied.

(Virginia Employment Commission) told me that my benefits were exhausted and I would have to wait until the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance opened up.”

That new federal program, PUA, is supposed to help people like Lee, but hasn’t helped yet.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) says it’s a matter of getting the outdated state unemployment system up to speed.

“Most of the unemployment systems, not just in Virginia but across the country, are operating on very old computer systems that weren’t equipped to gear up as quickly as they were called upon,” Warner said.

Traditional unemployment benefits cover less than half of the workforce. The idea behind PUA is to get benefits to those who aren’t covered.

“We put in place an expansion that says anyone who loses work W-2, 1099er, independent contractor, gig worker, they’re gonna be able to receive unemployment during this crisis,” Warner said.

The latest figures show unemployment running anywhere from 9 to 13 percent in Hampton Roads.

You can contact 10 On Your Side with your unemployment concerns. We have partnered with State Sen. Bill DeSteph (R-Virginia Beach) to help people get answers about their unemployment benefits. He and his staff have already assisted hundreds of people.

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