Over half a million Virginians filed for unemployment benefits over the past six weeks. As a result, many Virginia families now rely on these benefits to live. In response to recent federal legislation, the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) increased and expanded access to unemployment benefits in the Commonwealth. As a result, many beneficiaries qualify for additional weekly payments, while some self-employed workers can receive unemployment compensation for the first time. The VEC is working with the federal government to get needed benefits into the hands of Virginia workers affected by COVID-19.
Workers Eligible to Claim Traditional Virginia Unemployment Benefits
Virginians who made at least $3,000 over the past year and lost their jobs for economic reasons may qualify for unemployment benefits. In addition, due to the current pandemic, employees who were laid off, either permanently or temporarily, may generally claim unemployment in the Commonwealth. However, workers fired or quitting without good cause may not be eligible for benefits. Most states also exclude independent contractors and small business owners from their unemployment schemes.
Virginia workers who lost essential income due to COVID-19 closures may apply for unemployment benefits with the VEC online or over the phone. The maximum state benefit is $378 per week for 26 weeks. Claimants must recertify their eligibility weekly, even in light of the present pandemic. To receive traditional unemployment benefits in Virginia, an affected worker must:
- Be totally or partially unemployed, which means an applicant is not earning any money or is earning less than his regular weekly income
- File a complete application for benefits with the VEC
- Report all work and income earned each week, if any, from a small business, part-time job, severance pay, or vacation benefits
- Be ready and able to work with no medical or other restrictions
- Register as a job seeker with the VEC Workforce Connection within five days of applying for benefits
- Actively look for work each week and provide proof of the same, including evidence of any jobs offered and why you refused them – CURRENTLY SUSPENDED
Proof that your employer closed its doors due to COVID-19, which may include a copy of Governor Northam’s business closure order and paystub, may be sufficient to meet the economic layoff requirements. In addition, the Governor suspended weekly job search requirements during the pandemic, and the Commonwealth has waived the one-week waiting period for benefits.
Virginia Unemployment Beneficiaries Eligible for Additional COVID-19 Relief
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) could supplement Virginia unemployment benefits. Traditionally eligible claimants might qualify for an additional $600 per week due to the Coronavirus. The VEC automatically administers these extra funds to otherwise eligible recipients with their weekly allowance. For example, a teacher laid off due to Coronavirus might claim a maximum of $978 per week ($378 + $600) through July 31, 2020. The government may extend this scheme, and you should speak with a Virginia employment attorney for the latest updates.
Otherwise, eligible claimants may receive state and federal supplemental unemployment benefits if laid off due to COVID-19. Claimants must apply for help each week as needed. Claimants not otherwise eligible for compensation from the Commonwealth may still apply for FPUC benefits through the VEC.
Unemployment Benefits Currently Available to Formally Ineligible Virginia Workers
Traditionally ineligible workers must apply for traditional unemployment insurance in Virginia to claim federal pandemic benefits. This application triggers the claims process. Independent contractors, certain non-profit workers, clergy, Uber drivers, students, gig-workers, and persons forced to stop working due to illness must use the VEC system. These workers should expect an automated denial of benefits, but they will be contacted via phone to complete their supplemental FPUC claims. Do not be surprised by a monetary determination denial from the Virginia Employment Commission. This is necessary for traditionally ineligible workers to claim federal pandemic benefits under the current scheme, and you do not need to file an appeal.
Applicants for federal benefits may be required to submit the following additional documentation to the VEC:
- 2019 federal tax return
- Bank information
- Financial statements
- Most recent 1099s
- Final pay stub of 2019
- Proof of employment
- Business licenses
- Sales receipts
- Other records of active business
Federal emergency unemployment assistance covers eligible workers as needed for up to 39 weeks between January 2020 and December 2020. The VEC administers these benefits on behalf of the federal government, and successful claimants should receive their first payment within two weeks of approval. The VEC may ask for additional documentation during this process, and federal beneficiaries must recertify their eligibility weekly. FPUC benefits match state benefits. The schemes do not overlap, and workers cannot choose between the programs. Virginia workers receiving PUC compensation may receive a maximum of $978 per week ($378 + $600) through July and $378 per week after that until the benefits expire. Only certain workers qualify for expanded VEC benefits, and you should speak with an attorney about your options under the CARE Act.