Virginia’s state flag flies in Richmond. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)
The Virginia Employment Commission rolled out a new appointment system Thursday to help people struggling to get their unemployment claims resolved.
Within hours, all of the available slots in the state’s most populous regions were booked up, frustrating lawmakers who had been urged to share the new appointment system with constituents who have been flooding their offices with calls after being unable to get the agency to answer their questions.
“We were very, very pleased to see that there was finally a door opening at the VEC, but it appears that it was a very small door, and it appears that it has already shut,” said Sen. Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg.
The employment commission has generated bipartisan frustration during the pandemic, but lawmakers said they’ve faced a fresh wave of complaints in recent weeks after a change in federal programs required many people receiving benefits to reapply, which in some cases meant aid has stopped until the agency can conduct a manual review. Lawmakers also cited complications created by the resumption of the work search requirement and new identification checking protocols.
A spokeswoman for VEC, Joyce Fogg, did not respond to questions about how many appointments were available and how many have been made, but said people hoping to schedule a time to receive a phone call from a VEC agent should check back daily.
“Appointments are being booked two weeks out,” Fogg said. “More will be added daily.”
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