Approximately 20,000 Virginians who have been relying on extended unemployment benefits over the last several months amidst the coronavirus pandemic will no longer receive those payments come Saturday.
The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) announced Wednesday that it has been notified by the U.S. Department of Labor that the Extended Benefits Program in Virginia will end on November 21.
The program, which began back on May 31, covered people who had already exhausted their regular unemployment benefits (UI), and any pandemic emergency unemployment benefits, or those who had no right to UI under state law.
“People who were on those extended benefits were getting the same amount of money that they were getting weekly [before], but it was just an extension of their weeks,” Joyce Fogg, a VEC spokesperson, said in an interview with The Virginia Star. “And it was up to 13 weeks, but not everybody got 13-weeks. It was 50 percent of what your traditionally unemployment entitlement was.”
Under normal circumstances, extended benefit payments would be split 50-50 between the VEC and the Department of Labor, but in light of the pandemic the state’s half was being covered through CARES Act money, meaning the program was entirely federally funded, Fogg said.
The Department of Labor decides whether states can continue to receive extended benefits based on a calculation of unemployment rates, called the insured unemployment rate, over a 13-week period and a given threshold.
Virginia’s threshold for extended benefits is five percent and, as of November 15, the insured unemployment rate had dipped to 4.66 percent, a signal to the government that the extended benefits program was no longer necessary.
Extended benefits are not gone forever though.
“Yes, it can come back,” Fogg told The Star. “[the program] triggers on and triggers off.”
Fogg said that if the state’s insured unemployment rate increases above the five percent threshold again, then the Department of Labor can start up the program again, but only after a 13-week reevaluating period. If coronavirus conditions keep getting worse and more statewide restrictions are enforced, that could cause lots of Virginians out of work.
People covered by extended benefits were notified by the VEC about the program ending on Monday night through the Gov2Go website, according to Fogg, and the last effective date to claim extended benefits was this past Sunday.
Overall, the VEC has had 1.4 million unemployment claims made this year and paid out over 9$ billion in benefits, Fogg said.
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