Unemployment benefits still not coming: ‘Fixing the problem’?

Virginia covid-19

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A March 17 press release from the office of Gov. Ralph Northam promised “Support for Affected Workers,” and in bold reported: “No waiting for unemployment benefits.”

More from there: “Northam has directed the Commissioner of the Virginia Employment Commission to waive the one-week waiting period to ensure workers can receive benefits as soon as possible.”

A local business owner who saw this and decided to shutter so that his employees could quickly get in line for unemployment benefits tells us today that, more than two weeks into this, none have received their first check.

This is unconscionable, as is this notice on the Virginia Employment Commission website, and its half-assed explanation as to what’s going on:

“Currently, the online claim filing system is operational but not sending confirmation numbers. Claims are being received and we are working on fixing the problem.”

And then this bit of nonsense, also from the VEC site:

“VEC will begin issuing $600 provided for by the CARES Act once we have received guidance from the United States Department of Labor and have modified our system to implement that guidance.”

Northam has no trouble doing his best to scare the bejeezus out of people with his breathless pronouncements on how the situation we’re in now won’t last for weeks, but months, no doubt scoring points for himself in terms of just how danged serious he is on COVID-19 wherever they keep score on such things.

People who made decisions based on words that came out under his name are now left to fend for themselves due to Northam’s stunning incompetence.

Business owners who hope to be able to reopen once the current distancing restrictions are relaxed worked the calculus on how much it would cost to keep employees given reductions in economic activity and how the governor said there would be “no waiting for unemployment benefits” and made painful calls to put people on furlough.

Two and a half weeks later, and the best we get is, sorry, we’re working on fixing the problem, and we’re waiting to hear from the feds before we do anything else.

Bullshit.

Look, we can’t go back and retroactively get ourselves ready in terms of the public-health situation we’re in now, though, being fair there, as much criticism as has been thrown at our president, and rightly so, for dropping the ball at the federal level, state leaders have their fair share of blame to bear on this.

Nothing stopped Northam from deciding back on Jan. 20 to start scrounging around for ventilators and N95 masks, implementing physical distancing, making sure hospitals across the Commonwealth were ready.

Nothing stopped him when he took office in 2018 from making sure hospitals had adequate capacity to be able to accommodate a pandemic, and taking steps to get us better ready, as need be, for that matter.

Can’t fix those things, though we’d better make sure, once this crisis has passed, that we’re never that lax again.

But in terms of the unemployment benefits situation, “fixing the problem” ain’t going to cut it.

There are plenty of IT firms currently looking for things to do right now that could be engaged to assist in the effort, and if we need more manpower to answer phones and process claims, well, again, tens of thousands of Virginians who were gainfully employed two weeks ago could be engaged to pitch in and help out.

The sense you get from Northam when he runs in front of the cameras in his pressers is that he expects you to be sad and scared.

What you need to be is pissed off.

You’re following orders, and he’s not following through with what he promised.

Maybe forego the pressers until you get this basic damn thing fixed, huh, bub?

Story by Chris Graham


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