Unemployment problems continue to haunt Portsmouth woman months after she returned to work


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Portsmouth resident Kim Edwards is back in the working world, although she’s not doing the same job she was before the pandemic.

“I would process any prescriptions that came in, counting pills, labeling. Primarily, I worked in a hospital setting where I would mix IVs for patients,” Edwards said Wednesday afternoon.

She was a pharmacy tech, a career she had for more than 20 years. After the pandemic, she was able to work from home for a while in customer service but then her employer downsized and her job was gone.

Unemployment helped for a while until it stopped cold in July 2020.

“It was difficult. I wasn’t able to pay rent, wasn’t able to pay utilities. Even just trying to buy groceries and put gas in the car, it was difficult. Day-to-day life became non-existent. Just stayed in the house all the time,” she said.

That lasted for 10 months, which would have been about $12,000 in benefits Edwards never saw. She kept trying to reach the Virginia Employment Commission.

“It would not even let you stay on hold to talk to someone, it would just say everybody is busy, call back,” Edwards said.

She was no longer able to pay rent and a friend took her in. Then, Edwards found a new job in late May 2021 in medical billing, but her problems were far from solved. She’s the one with the big bills that are now haunting her from 10 months with no income.

“I have thousands of dollars in utility bills that I have to catch up on,” she said.

She says until she pays those past-due utility balances, she can forget about getting service again even though now, she can afford once again to pay for her own place. Erasing those debts will be her first move — if and when she can get the money she says she’s owed by the VEC.

Also, even though Edwards was protected from eviction during the 10 months without benefits, she will still have show cause and eviction notices that will affect her ability to rent again.

If you’re having a problem with unemployment benefits, let us know at reportit@wavy.com.

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