Don’t know how to apply for unemployment benefits? Here’s a step-by-step guide

‘I don’t technically have a salary, so those are the questions for small business owners’

ROANOKE, Va. – Record-breaking layoffs have led to record unemployment claims across the country.

The number of claims have exceeded 10 million just in the past few weeks since the coronavirus outbreak.

In Virginia, that number reached over 112,000 unemployment claims.

Now, families are worried how they’re going to pay their bills and put food on the table. People who thought they had stable jobs are finding themselves out of work, including Radford local, Bradley Angell, who runs Brad’s Barber Shop.

Angell had to close his shop last week and now he’s trying to figure out how to file for unemployment. However, since he works for himself, the process has been confusing.

“I don’t technically have a salary, so those are the questions for small business owners, when we’re filling this stuff out, because the website’s not really geared for us. We almost need some individual contact to be able to talk to people," Angell said.

In order to file for unemployment benefits through the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) you first have to file an initial claim by either:

1. Calling 1-866-832-2363


2. Doing it online through the Virginia Workforce Connection website: vawc.virginia.gov

Roanoke VEC Office Manager Katherine Holcomb said you’ll have to provide some personal information, including your social security number, dates of employment, employer contact information, and which states you have recently worked in.

“There shouldn’t be anything asked of a person that they would not know because it is about their recent history and their recent experience,” Holcomb said.

Within a few days, you’ll then documents in the mail letting you know if your claim was approved, how much money you can receive each week, a pin number and documents explaining your responsibilities.

After that, you have to remember to claim your benefits every week by visiting the same website: vawc.virginia.gov or by calling: 1-800-897-5630. Otherwise, you won’t get paid.

“You don’t want to lose track of what weeks have been claimed and you know, risk perhaps losing eligibility for any period of time,” Holcomb said.

The one-week waiting period and the weekly job search requirements have been waived due to the coronavirus.

The $2 trillion CARES Act passed last week allows people on unemployment to receive an additional $600 a week for the next four months. And it allows other workers who were not previously eligible for unemployment benefits to receive them now, including self-employed or gig workers. Those workers, like Angell, can earn up to half the average weekly benefits of other unemployed workers in the state.

In Virginia, the weekly maximum is $378.

The process can be tedious and the VEC is inundated with calls. Other people across Southwest Virginia said they’ve experienced long wait times both online and over-the-phone.

Holcomb said that patience is key, but Angell said that is easier than it sounds.

“My money is starting to get thin, so it’s easy to say you’ve got to be patient," Angell said, “But it’s also hard when you know you’ve got bills.”

The VEC recommends that everyone who has lost employment or been impacted by the coronavirus should file a claim.

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