On May 25, in response to a lawsuit filed in April by Kelly Guzzo, PLC, Consumer Litigation Associates and three legal aid organizations, U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson entered an Order that requires the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) to eliminate its backlog of unpaid unemployment benefits claims.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of five Virginia residents who had their unemployment benefits halted abruptly and without explanation by the VEC in September 2020, although the actual number of claimants impacted by VEC’s delays is likely in the tens of thousands. The VEC’s delays not only impact state unemployment benefits, but also substantial amounts of federal unemployment relief provided in pandemic aid packages enacted by the U.S. Congress.
Judge Hudson’s Order, which will go into effect immediately, specifically requires the following:
- Ensure the elimination of the VEC adjudication backlog before September 6, 2021 (Labor Day);
- Accelerate the adjudication of claims to 10,000 cases weekly by July 1, 2021, and 20,000 cases weekly by August 1, 2021;
- Quickly and immediately process adjudications for many applicants who are covered by Pandemic Unemployment benefits but have had to first await adjudication;
- Identify and resume payments to those claimants who had been getting benefits but were improperly cut off;
- Require state identification and better coordination of various alternate housing, food, and income benefits available to applicants in financial difficulty; and
- Subject the VEC’s new performance standards and deadlines to judicial supervision and require weekly information sharing to make that possible.
According to a federal survey, Virginia ranks last out of 50 states in meeting legal deadlines in the processing of unemployment benefit claims.