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Unemployment: Nearly 1 million initial claims filed since beginning of COVID-19 shutdown

Virginia covid-19
(© Ingo Menhard –

More than 30,000 Virginians filed initial unemployment benefits claims last week, pushing the total who have filed claims since mid-March ever closer to 1 million.

The 31,825 who filed first-time claims last week was down slightly from the week before, according to the Virginia Employment Commission.

The total for the past four months is 938,559, which the VEC says is more than the total of initial claims filed from September 2014 to mid-March 2020.

The data shows there are 378,607 continued claims, an increase of 11,893 from a week ago.

To date, the VEC has paid out $5.7 billion in benefits since the beginning of the COVID-19 shutdown.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation

Last week, VEC issued text and voice messages to more than 41,000 individuals identified as potentially eligible for benefits under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program.

On July 2, VEC launched the application portal for Virginians to access the federal PEUC benefits program provided by the CARES Act.

This program provides up to an additional 13 weeks of regular/traditional Unemployment Insurance benefits to individuals who have already exhausted their regular Unemployment Insurance benefits.

This program applies to claims by individuals whose benefit year ended on July 6, 2019, or after. Payments to recipients recently began and are available through the week ending on Dec. 26, 2020.

Since the initial payments to applicants, which began on July 7, VEC has paid out $9.9 million in PEUC benefits on over 12,000 claims. Payments can take up to three business days to reach a recipient’s account and will be retroactive, with the first payable week for qualifying applicants under PEUC being the week ending April 4, 2020.

The program, which provides a supplemental $600 in weekly benefits to individuals who qualify for state or federal unemployment benefits, will automatically be added to the weekly benefit amount under the PEUC claim.

The final payable week for this $600 weekly payment is the week ending July 25, 2020.

The PEUC program is the latest unemployment benefits program to be implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. On April 10, VEC launched the $600 supplemental payment through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program. On April 19, VEC launched the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provides benefits through expanded eligibility for 1099 employees, gig workers, self-employed individuals and other qualifying individuals.

augusta free press
augusta free press