VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Employment Commission says staff is working around the clock to process claims. This is the highest volume they have seen since 2008 and there is no slowing down.
“Well, this is unprecedented,” said Old Dominion University professor Dr. Robert McNab. “We just never see this many people file for unemployment so quickly.”
In just the last two weeks, more than 65,000 Hampton Roads residents have turned to the Virginia Employment Commission.
“The last recession, which took 18 months, is now happening in about four weeks,” McNab added.
Hampton Roads has been hit hard by the coronavirus. Restaurants and the hotel industry have been decimated. Local economists say the unemployment level is growing with no end in sight.
“Some models are saying we will end at 15 to 18% unemployment,” McNab said. “Other models have us exceeding the unemployment levels of the Great Depression.”
“We are deploying people from other divisions to move over to the unemployment insurance division to help process claims,” added VEC spokeswoman Joyce Fogg.
On average the VEC says about 250 Virginians file for unemployment daily. Now they are fielding more than 10,000 claims a day.
“It is stressful on our staff,” Fogg said. “They are working overtime and they are working seven days a week.”
One in every five claims the VEC sees comes from Hampton Roads.
“Our preference is to file online because you go ahead and get your claim in faster,” Fogg added. “If you call into the call center, the wait time is over two hours.”
The VEC continues to hire staff while bringing back people who retired from the department to help get through the claims.
Virginia Beach’s Tammie Conner has not had much to smile about lately.
“Filing for unemployment has been kind of stressful,” said the single mother.
Conner has worked as a waitress at Citrus Breakfast and Lunch for the past six years. It is a job she loves, but she knew things were going to get rough in early March.
“I knew that I was going to be dipping in my savings and I would probably no longer be able to buy a home this year like I had previously set goals for myself,” Conner added.
Conner filed for unemployment. She is one of 65,000 Hampton Roads residents who have done so in the last two weeks.
“I’m actually not going to be able to renew my lease,” Conner said. “I’ll be moving back in with my mother.”
The coronavirus has impacted everyone and left those without jobs wondering what is next.
“You feel defeated,” Conner added. “It’s a feeling of defeat.”
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