CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The staff at WorkForce West Virginia continues to try and stay afloat amid a sea of unexpected unemployment claims.
The office has been working desperately to keep up with the case load which since the pandemic response started has topped 90,000 new claims in March and another 41,000 in April as of Friday.
“We’re doing everything possible to make sure we get the money from unemployment to people who need it most,” said WorkForce West Virginia Acting Commissioner Scott Adkins on Metronews Talkline Saturday.
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) April 11, 2020
Adkins’ staff has been overwhelmed, but they have adapted and continued making progress. More than 100 new staffers have been added. Those include activated members of the West Virginia National Guard, reassigned workers from other state agencies, and even some employees of WVU. There are now three call centers working 24/7 on claims and a fourth is in development. Ninety more temporary workers or employees of the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety will be trained in the next few days to continue to defray the backlog.
Training employees to process claims and programming computers to handle the new wrinkles from the Federal government is part of the process, but Adkins admitted some who are attempting to draw down benefits may not even known what to expect.
Those who are already receiving unemployment benefits, according to Adkins, need to do nothing different. He indicated continuing to make the weekly filings which are always required will include you in drawing down the extra $600/week from the Federal CARES act.
“If you were on unemployment benefits dating back to July 1, 2019 you qualify for an extra 13 weeks of benefits,” he said. “If you fit that profile, and your benefits have exhausted, you need to re-file. Those benefits will be available soon.”
The CARES Act approved by Congress to provide economic relief during the pandemic period also included new categories of qualifiers for jobless benefits. Among them are the self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers, or those who have lost part-time employment.
“That whole category would fall under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or P-U-A. Those are coming and we are currently working around the clock to program and test the Workforce system so we can roll those programs out,” he said.
Adkins offered up to those frustrated and waiting on benefits everyone is doing their best, while also acknowledging that doesn’t help. He noted those who have filed will eventually be served with their state benefits and the Federal unemployment compensation, benefits which will be retroactive to when they lost their job and filed the claim.