Governor Glenn Youngkin’s administration says it has cleared a backlog of nearly 250,000 unemployment claims it inherited just over two months ago and reduced the number of unpaid claims awaiting judgment to a few thousands.
The Virginia Employment Commission, an agency whose performance at the height of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021 slowed so much that a federal judge ordered reforms, has cleared a backlog of 246,273 “separation reports,” according to an e- email from Youngkin’s office at the Mercury over the weekend.
The statement, attributed to VEC Commissioner Carrie Roth, said that in addition to clearing the backlog, the agency “keeps abreast of new separation reports.”
“In addition, we had 24,887 pending unpaid claims. We reduced that figure by 86%, including new unpaid claims, to 3,466,” Roth said in the statement.
Roth succeeded Ellen Marie Hess, who led the VEC throughout former Governor Ralph Northam’s tenure. Northam ignored calls to shake up agency management despite a Federal Class Action 2021 and a scathing audit last fall by the nonpartisan oversight agency of the General Assembly, the Joint Audit and Legislative Review Commission.
The JLARC report found the agency was unprepared to even handle pre-pandemic caseloads and was being mismanaged, leaving tens of thousands of newly unemployed Virginians who filed claims during the pandemic not only without help lifeline for months but unable to reach anyone at VEC to check on the status of their claims. Among its flaws, according to the report, was a computer system that was eight years overdue for replacement.
Youngkin dismissed Hess as one of his first official actions in January.
Last month, the agency announced that the backlog of separation reports had been reduced by 89%, to 27,728, meaning the agency has cleared that number of reports since February 21. At the same time, according to a statement from VEC, the number of unpaid pending claims had been reduced from 24,887 to $15,846.
In the weekend update, Roth said “a significant amount of work remains” to bring the nearly 3,500 unpaid pending claims “to a resolution of the benefits they’ve earned.” There was no estimate of the duration of this task.
Get morning headlines delivered to your inbox