News from Representative Luria

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Dear Friend,

As we face this national health emergency, I am working to keep Coastal Virginians healthy and to protect our economy. On March 27, I voted for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to strengthen our public health response as well as our economic security in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act provided substantial resources to help people who have lost their jobs or been recently furloughed. Below is an FAQ about unemployment benefits under the CARES Act.

 

Where can I apply for unemployment benefits?

You can file for unemployment benefits through the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) in English here, or in Spanish here. You may also file a claim by phone between 8:15AM and 4:30PM Monday through Friday, and 9AM to 1PM on Saturday, at 1-866-832-2363 or 1-800-828-1120 (TTY/TDD).

Please note that you may not receive a confirmation email upon filing your claim. However, the online claim filing system is operational, and your claim will be processed.

Once you have filed your initial claim, you will need to file weekly updates online or at 1-800-897-5630. 

Are contractors, self-employed people, and gig economy workers eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits?

 

In general, yes. The CARES Act created a new federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program that provides unemployment benefits to people who would not otherwise qualify, such as self-employed workers, independent contractors, gig economy workers, part-time workers, and those with limited work histories.

As of April 10, VEC is finalizing the plan to implement the PUA program and is not yet accepting claims for these benefits. Benefit payments under the PUA program will be retroactive and can cover COVID-19-related unemployment beginning on or after January 27, 2020. Please note that the VEC says it must first verify whether you are eligible for traditional unemployment before you can receive PUA unemployment. If you have been determined ineligible for traditional unemployment, VEC will contact you by phone to provide more information on how to file for PUA unemployment. For more information, please see the VEC’s announcement about PUA here.

 

Am I eligible if I am furloughed or have had my hours reduced?

 

Yes, you may be eligible. For those who have had their hours reduced, you may be eligible for partial benefits if your hours have been reduced.

 

How much will I receive in benefits?

 

The CARES Act allowed states to access federal funding to provide $600 per week in unemployment benefits in addition to the amount already provided under state law.

Before implementation of the CARES Act, weekly unemployment benefits in Virginia could range between $60 and $378, with the exact amount depending on one’s income during a 12-month reference period. The CARES Act will allow Virginians on unemployment to receive $600 per week in addition to that amount. VEC has not yet finalized how it will implement the additional $600 payment, but they payments will be retroactive to people currently on unemployment who have not yet received it.

 

I haven’t received my extra $600 yet; what should I do?.

 

VEC is finalizing its procedures for distributing the extra $600 to individuals. If you are still waiting on your additional $600, please know that you will receive the payment automatically and will not have to take further action. Additionally, VEC will provide retroactive payments to cover all prior weeks during which you were entitled to the extra $600.

 

How long can I receive benefits?

 

Up to 39 weeks in Virginia. The CARES Act provided funding for states to offer an additional 13 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits in addition to the amount that states already offer. Under current state law, Virginia provides unemployment insurance benefits for up to 26 weeks, meaning that the CARES Act allows these benefits to be expanded to 39 weeks.

 

How quickly can I receive unemployment benefits?

 

The CARES Act allowed states to waive the one-week waiting period between applying for insurance and receiving benefits, which Governor Northam has done. VEC is still finalizing its procedures for implementing the disbursal of the additional $600 per unemployment claimant, but eligible claimants will receive retroactive benefits if they have not yet received the extra $600.

 

I still haven’t gotten any unemployment assistance and I haven’t been able to speak to anyone at VEC. What should I do?

 

Many constituents have told me that they have experienced delays in receiving unemployment benefits and have had difficulties getting in touch with representatives at VEC. These reports are also confirmed in numerous local media stories. Please know that the VEC website says that claims will be processed even if you do not receive a confirmation email.

I understand that these delays create unacceptable challenges for Virginians and am in close contact with state, federal, and local partners to determine how Congress can help get relief to individuals as quickly as possible.

 

Will people have to prove they are actively searching for work to stay on unemployment?

 

Generally, people on unemployment are expected to actively search for work. However, the CARES Act allows states to provide flexibility in meeting this requirement because of illness, quarantine, or movement restriction such as Virginia’s Stay at Home Order, effective through June 10. VEC has temporarily waived the requirements that individuals conduct a weekly job search.

 

Are unemployment benefits taxable?

 

Yes. Unemployment insurance benefits, including the additional $600 payment, are subject to federal tax. Upon filing for unemployment benefits, you may request that VEC withhold federal taxes from your benefits. If you do not make this request, you will receive your full benefits upfront and will be responsible for paying any applicable income taxes on these benefits.

 

Will people continue to receive unemployment benefits if they turn down a job offer?

 

Generally, people will lose eligibility for unemployment insurance if they turn down a suitable job offer without good cause. VEC will determine whether a job offer is suitable based on criteria such as physical and mental fitness, risks to health and safety, distance from home, and previous work experience.

 

Can people quit their jobs to get unemployment insurance benefits?

 

No. If you quit your job voluntarily without a good cause, you will be disqualified from receiving unemployment insurance benefits.

 

Where can I find more information about unemployment benefits?

 

VEC has a COVID-19 Resources webpage with information related to COVID-19-related unemployment provisions, including implementation of the CARES Act. In addition, VEC has an unemployment insurance FAQ webpage with detailed information about general unemployment insurance benefits. Both VEC and the Department of Labor are working to finalize rules and guidance associated with the CARES Act unemployment provisions, so additional updates are likely.

 

Please know that my team and I stand ready to assist our community during this time of need. For resources to help you and your family navigate through COVID-19, please see here. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to our offices via the phone numbers below.

 

Sincerely,

 

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