How to File for Unemployment in Virginia During COVID-19

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Filing for Unemployment in Virginia: What you need to know

Due to the quarantine imposed because of the spread of COVID-19, unemployment filings throughout the United States have skyrocketed. In the past month over 400,000 people have filed for unemployment in Virginia alone, which accounts for almost ten percent of the state workforce. It is very likely that you will find yourself in need of unemployment insurance during this difficult time and you are likely to have many questions. Here is what you need to know.

How can I apply?

You can file through the VEC website. This page contains all of the information required to file for unemployment as well as phone numbers that can be called for additional questions.

Be advised that only those who have worked in Virginia over the last 18 months are eligible. If your employment within the last 18 months was performed in a state other than Virginia, you are not eligible to receive unemployment insurance in Virginia. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you are still eligible, but you must provide your Alien Registration Number.

When can I start receiving unemployment insurance?

If you’re wondering when you can expect to start receiving unemployment insurance, there is both bad and good news.

The bad news is that it is likely that your unemployment insurance claims will take time to process due to the burden on the preexisting system, and this can be especially true if you are a gig worker, a contractor or are self-employed. The truth is that the state was underprepared for a crisis of this magnitude and the result is an Employment Commission that has been understaffed and over-capacity since the stay-at-home order was issued in Virginia. Due to these issues it may take several days or even weeks to begin to process your claim and receive benefits. As of April 17th, contractors and the self-employed will still have to wait two to three weeks to start receiving benefits as the VEC updates its IT capabilities to enable the distribution of unemployment insurance. In addition to this, gig workers will likely have to wait even longer due to the need to provide documentation of all income from their work to the understaffed state.

The good news is that the government and Governor Northam have been taking special measures to address these issues. Northam has announced that the government is increasing its support for the VEC, contracting call centers to help with call loads and is in the process of upgrading its website to handle additional traffic. Governor Northam has also taken special action to waive the usual one-week waiting period for unemployment insurance, meaning that those who need to file can file as soon as they lose their positions, as well as the work search requirements.