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Extended unemployment benefits program to end in the state, affecting about 20,000 out-of-work Virginians

Extended unemployment benefits program to end in the state, affecting about 20,000 out-of-work Virginians

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About 20,000 out-of-work Virginians who are still receiving extended unemployment benefits during the pandemic are going to see those benefits end starting Saturday.

The extended benefits program, which started on May 31, enables people who had exhausted their regular unemployment insurance benefits to receive up to an additional 13 weeks of what they were entitled to originally.

But those benefits will end in Virginia. The Virginia Employment Commission announced this week that it was notified by the U. S. Department of Labor that the extended benefits program in Virginia will end on Nov. 21.

The program is entirely federally funded, and Virginia is losing its funding now because the state has fallen below the unemployment rate threshold required to continue receiving money for the program.

The Department of Labor determines whether a state can continue receiving extended benefits based on a calculation of each state’s unemployment rate — called the insured rate, which is different from the official unemployment rate.

As of Nov. 15, the insured unemployment rate in Virginia had fallen to 4.66%, below the 5% threshold required to continue getting funding for the extended benefits program. Virginia’s overall jobless rate stood at 6.2% in September.

“It could come back,” Joyce Fogg, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Employment Commission, said about the extended benefits program. “If our unemployment rate goes back up, it could trigger back on. The [U.S.] Department of Labor decides that. They do a review every week of states. We are one of 16 now that have triggered off.”

But the federal program is set to expire on Dec. 26. The extended benefits program is part of a measure that Congress approved in the federal stimulus package that provided the additional 13 weeks of benefits.

Fogg said many Virginians who were receiving extended unemployment benefits had already exhausted those benefits, but about 20,000 people will be affected by the cut-off in benefits that start this Saturday.

The VEC said the last effective date for an extended benefits initial, additional or reopened claim will be Nov. 15. That means people who were told they were eligible for certain entitlements may not receive their full amount.

So far this year, the Virginia Employment Commission has paid out more than $9 billion for about 1.4 million unemployment benefit claims.

The VEC said it will send out messages to claimants through their Gov2Go accounts, advising those who are affected by the end of the extended benefits program.

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