augusta free press news

Northam: Get the unemployment thing fixed already

covid-19 economy
(© Alexander Borisenko –

We wrote last week about dire financial issues being faced by local workers who have been laid off as a result of the COVID-19 economic slowdown.

Gov. Ralph Northam seemed to address the issues in a Friday news conference, pledging to beef up manpower at the Virginia Employment Commission, and to deal with capacity issues faced by the VEC website being overloaded with web traffic from people trying to apply for unemployment benefits online.

We’re back four days later to tell you that: people are still not getting the help they need.

We’ve heard from a number of AFP readers who have not been able to get through to the VEC by phone, have no idea if their efforts to apply for benefits online have even gotten through to anybody, or were just lost in the system.

And, bottom line, they’re not getting benefits checks.

An important part of the social contract on the economic slowdown was: we need to do this, and we’ll take care of people who are temporarily put on the sidelines job-wise.

Updates to the models that have been used to guide decisions on physical distancing at the heart of the economic slowdown are, thankfully, showing that the impact of COVID-19 doesn’t appear to be anywhere near as dramatic as we first thought would be the case.

Either the models were dramatically overstating things, we got dumb lucky, whatever – it’s good news, and the news seems to be getting better every day.

From what we thought we knew four weeks ago, which was that millions could die, to where we are now, praise whatever higher power you believe in that we are where we are.

But COVID-19 could still have lingering, devastating impacts on tens of thousands of Virginians, if Gov. Northam doesn’t get what should be something pretty basic moving in the right direction.

Tens of thousands of Virginians who were gainfully employed in a strong economy a month ago are now reduced to subsisting on handouts because the benefits that they were promised would be there are inaccessible due to what you could only call incompetence on the part of the Northam administration.

Our dear governor loves getting in front of cameras, as we noted last week, to showcase how serious he is in terms of his approach to dealing with COVID-19.

As we stated last week, and hate that we have to reiterate today, Northam needs to cease the preening for the cameras, and get to work solving this problem.


Don’t tell us you’re working on it.

Get. This. Fixed.

Repeat: now.

Story by Chris Graham