Virginia Government Asking Citizens to Repay Thousands in Pandemic Unemployment Claims

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Virginians are reporting letters from the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) asking for repayment of unemployment claims due to VEC error.

The government hasn’t made any exceptions for the VEC’s errors resulting in overpayments – even with the mandatory shutdowns throughout this pandemic.

This isn’t unusual, according to Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) Chair Richard Anderson. In fact, it’s the law.

“There’s no authorities in the Code of Virginia that empower a state agency to forgive those overpayments. What an agency will typically do is work out a payment plan,” Anderson told The Virginia Star. “Nobody in state government is empowered to forgive overpayment like that.”

In an interview with The Star, Virginia Beach local Carly Vega shared that she received her overpayment letter last week. Her neighbor and her neighbor’s co-workers received letters prior to that.

“That letter came in, and when I opened it I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I used that money to pay for everything in the 5-6 weeks that the state was shut down.'”

Although the letter states that the VEC as the “Agency” is at fault for overpayment, the law considers Vega responsible for repaying the amount. Since receiving this latest letter, she’s attempted to contact the VEC to discuss its implications.

“My son has special needs. I can’t be on the phone for 3 hours while taking care of him, taking care of my house, and working to make a living.”

Prior to this letter, Vega had engaged in a months-long ordeal with the VEC. They say she owes nearly $5,000.

Vega runs her own makeup artist business. When the pandemic hit and most of her wedding clientele disappeared in the spring, she applied for unemployment. Soon after, she received 5-6 weeks of payments. When the benefits stopped, Vega attempted to contact the VEC. She began reaching out in May.

“I called every day, sent emails to their local office, I even went on Twitter – and couldn’t find anyone to respond back. I was at a point where I gave up and let it go.”

Vega shared copies of her email exchanges with The Star. In them, VEC officials informed Vega that she had to wait for an official review of her unemployment, and then the hearing of her separation claim. Vega couldn’t get further clarification. Communications ended when the Special Assistant to the Chief Workforce Advisor Meaghan Green informed Vega in mid-August that there were two-month backlogs on the claims.

Months later, Vega received 10 simultaneous letters from the VEC documenting her denied application. With the official denials in hand, Vega attempted to file for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). Vega received PUA for several weeks before stopping the claims in the second week of September when her business began to pick up for the first time since the initial onset of the pandemic.

Then last week, Vega received her notice of overpayment and duty to repay the VEC.

This isn’t an isolated incident. In May, VEC discovered it overpaid 35,000 workers anywhere from $600 to $1,200. These workers will have the money deducted from future checks.

A spokesperson for the VEC couldn’t be reached for comment. None of the VEC employees knew of a contact point for members of the press.

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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].

 

 

 

 

 

 

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