PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — If you’re receiving unemployment benefits, the Virginia Employment Commission is bringing back the search-for-work requirement in order to get those funds.

The requirement was suspended last March by Gov. Ralph Northam in response to the pandemic but a year later, employers are feeling the pinch.

A VEC spokeswoman tells 10 On Your Side people receiving unemployment benefits will once again be required to apply to two jobs a week.

Since the pandemic began, VEC has paid more than $12 billion in benefits.

“We’ve had a million and a half claims since last March, and that’s more claims than we’ve had in 10 years,” said Joyce Fogg, VEC communicators manager.

A year later, the workforce is slowly returning but it hasn’t been easy for those doing the hiring.

“We’ve been contacted pretty constantly lately by employers saying ‘We can’t get employees, we need employees,’” Fogg said. “A lot of people are getting more with the extra benefits that are added.”

To fill those open positions, VEC is reinstating a requirement to apply to two jobs a week for anyone collecting unemployment funds. People must report where they’ve submitted applications.

“The VEC will verify that they actually did those job searches,” Fogg said.

The work search requirement will resume in the coming weeks and claimants will be notified via mail and text message. VEC said don’t forget to let them know where you applied.

“A week that you don’t report anything, your money is stopped,” Fogg said.

VEC has more than 475,000 positions posted on its website and the agency is continually hosting job fairs.

“They’ve been virtual so you don’t even have to leave your house to apply and get to talk to an employer,” Fogg said.

The latest weekly data on the VEC website shows Hampton Roads has just under 9,000 continued claims. We’re told initial unemployment claims are going down, which Fogg said is a promising sign.

“It will help the economy to get better so we are encouraging people to get back to work,” she said.

For a link to search jobs on the VEC website, click here. 

For more information on unemployment changes with the Virginia Employment Commission, click here.