Virginia brings back job search requirement to receive unemployment

With the region slowly recovering from the coronavirus pandemic, Virginia has reinstated the rule that requires people seeking unemployment benefits to actively search for work.

In March of last year, Gov. Ralph Northam temporarily waived the requirement due to the economic turmoil caused by COVID-19.

“You did not have to do job searches or report job searches during the pandemic,” said Joyce Fogg, spokeswoman with the Virginia Employment Commission.

That is no longer the case.

Under a change that took effect Sunday, Virginians seeking payment of unemployment benefits are now required to make at least two job searches per week and report those job contacts when filing their weekly claim for continued benefits.

“You will not get your benefits for the week that you do not report two job searches,” said Fogg.

In order to receive benefits, you must be able and available for work. The U.S. Department of Labor defines “able” as being physically and mentally able to perform work, and “available” as ready and willing to accept suitable work.

If you are offered suitable employment and turn it down, you may also see your benefits discontinued.

“All of these things were required prior to the pandemic,” explained Fogg. “It’s time for that to be back in place. We have employers contacting us daily who cannot find employees.”

Fogg said there are about 500,000 open positions currently on Virginia Workforce Connection, a site that lists job openings across the state.

Nearly three weeks ago, when Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan lifted restrictions on businesses, he said he directed the Maryland Department of Labor to work with the federal government to reinstate the work-search requirements for unemployment coverage.

Maryland had also suspended the job-search requirement due to fallout from the pandemic.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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