Jobless claims have spiked in Virginia due to the coronavirus outbreak. Here’s what you need to know when filing a claim

A federal report shows jobless claims in Virginia spiked by nearly a factor of 20 as parts of the economy slowed or shuttered in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

The report released Thursday shows that 46,885 Virginians filed unemployment claims for the week ending March 21. That’s about 18 times higher than the previous four-week rolling average of 2,645 claims.

The increase is even sharper than the nation as a whole, where a spike of 3.28 million jobless claims jumped 14 times above the previous four-week rolling average.

The Virginia Employment Commission has experienced what it calls an unprecedented deluge in calls, and warns those trying to file jobless claims by phone that they will experience wait times of two hours or more. The commission plans to be open Saturday to take calls to try to deal with the volume, but those who have lost their jobs are urged to file their claims online if possible.

Many businesses have closed or drastically curtailed their business in the wake of state and federal orders that mandate or encourage people to stay home to stop the spread of coronavirus.

As of Thursday, Virginia has 460 positive cases of coronavirus (COVID-19).

So far, the state’s death toll stands at 14, half of which happened in the Virginia Health District, which covers Newport News, Poquoson, Williamsburg, James City County and York County and the Hampton Health District covers Hampton.

As of Thursday, James City County remains to have one of the highest positive cases of coronavirus in the state per capita at 49.

Here are five things you need to know about filing for unemployment during the coronavirus:

  1. When to apply:For those who have become totally or partially unemployed due to the coronavirus, claims for unemployment insurance cannot be filed or processed until the actual lay-off or reduction in hours has occurred. According to the Virginia Employment Commission, claims should be filed after an individual has been out of work for at least one full day.
  2. How to apply:Individuals can contact the Virginia Employment Commission Customer Contact Center at 866-832-2363 or complete an online application. Applicants will be asked to provide the name, address and and telephone number of their last employer. Additionally, they will provide their dates of employment and reason for separation. Once this information is provided, the Virginia Employment Commission will decide if an individual meets monetary eligibility, separation qualifications and weekly eligibility.
  3. Who can apply:When an individual files for unemployment benefits, they should make sure to check the reason for separation as “Lack of Work” or “Lay Off.” Benefits will not be distrusted to those who are filing because of a reduction in hours if their gross earning is less than their weekly benefit amount. The current maximum weekly benefit amount is $378.
  4. How much:The amount a person can receive for unemployment benefits depends on their earnings. The range is a minimum of $60 per week for 12 weeks or up to $378 a week for 26 weeks. Benefit computation tables are available on the Virginia Employment Commission website.
  5. Payment timeline: Ralph Northam recently directed that the typical one-week waiting period and requirement to conduct a weekly job search be suspended for those receiving unemployment insurance benefits. Starting March 15, all unemployment claims will be processed shortly after an individual claims their first full week. During the application process, applicants will be asked to select an electronic payment method to receive their benefits. Applicants can choose either direct deposit or a debit card.

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