Thousands in VA filing for unemployment daily, citing coronavirus-related closures


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — As coronavirus shakes the service industry, Wood & Iron Gameday Restaurant and Bar is putting all of their profits towards their employees.

With only 10 patrons allowed on the property at a time, tips are few and far between. Assistant General Manager Chris Ryan says that has forced them to temporarily cut more than 30 employees from their schedule.

“We’re doing everything we can to keep as many people employed as possible. We have people with kids and families that rely on this,” Ryan said. “Right now for some of them unemployment makes more sense than $2.13 an hour.” 

Gov. Ralph Northam is advising people whose jobs have been impacted by the coronavirus to reach out to the Virginia Employment Commission.

William Walton, the Commission’s Unemployment Insurance Director, said business closures and cuts related to COVID-19 have caused claims to increase “dramatically” over the past several days. He said they’re moving staff from other areas of the agency to help process the sudden influx of applications.

“Where typically we would get a couple hundred claims per day we’re now getting a couple thousand per day,” Walton said.

Gov. Northam said in a press conference on Thursday that, as of Wednesday, there were 10 thousand applications.

In response to the pandemic, job search requirements have been eliminated. Gov. Northam’s State of Emergency declaration is also allowing people to get benefits faster, according to Walton.

“He has waived the one week waiting period so the very first week in which your claim is effective you can expect compensation for that week,” he said.

Walton said people should apply for benefits only after they’ve lost their job or had their hours reduced. People who don’t have paid leave that are forced to self-quarantine or look after a loved one should also file a claim.

Walton recommends doing so online to avoid wait times, which he said could exceed 45 minutes. The Commission’s hotline says it could be greater than two hours.

Currently, the weekly compensation in Virginia ranges from $60 to $378. The duration also varies between 12 and 26 weeks. Walton said these calculations are based on wage history from October 2018 to September 2019.

Walton said the amount and duration of benefits could change under federal legislation.

To file a new claim for unemployment benefits click here or call 1-866-832-2363 (Monday through Friday 8:30 am – 4:30 pm).

For more coronavirus coverage, click here.

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