Review paints dire picture of Virginia Employment Commission

RICHMOND, Va. — A review has found persistent problems at the Virginia Employment Commission since the pandemic began.

According to a presentation to lawmakers Monday, the agency is still swamped with backlogged claims, its call centers are underperforming and serious staffing problems persist.

People are waiting longer when they call the Virginia Employment Commission. (Courtesy VEC)

“In particular VEC had too few staff working in key functions even prior to COVID,” said Lauren Axselle, who is leading the review.

“Regarding adjudication timeliness, we found that VEC has not effectively responded to the increased volume of adjudication during COVID.  As a result VEC’s backlog of adjudications remains substantial and will likely grow,” she said.

“In almost all cases, VEC’s adjudications are not timely.”

VEC has not effectively responded to the increased volume of adjudications during COVID-19; backlog of
adjudications remains substantial and will likely grow, VEC said. (Courtesy VEC)

While the VEC has completed adjudicating 92,000 claims as required by a May 2021 settlement in a class-action lawsuit, other cases are piling up.

“VEC still has a substantial backlog of UI claims requiring adjudication. As of August 2021, over 100,000 claims that were not part of the lawsuit were still in VEC’s adjudication queue. Staff estimates an additional 1 million claims issued could also require adjudication. These were things that VEC initially bypassed during the height of COVID and now has to review them to see whether adjudication is needed,” Axselle said.

The state’s legislative watchdog agency undertook a review after the employment commission came under harsh scrutiny from lawmakers and members of the public for its response to the surge in jobless claims that began early last year.

Monday’s report was an interim update. A final version is due in November.

Read more about the backlogged claims.

Watch the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission hearing. Discussion about the employment commission starts 35 minutes into the meeting.

Read the Interim Report: Review of the Virginia Employment Commission.

The Associated Press and WTOP’s Colleen Kelleher contributed to this story.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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