Unemployment benefits in Virginia will be suspended in more than 12,000 cases involving claimants refusing to return to work as coronavirus-related restrictions loosen and businesses reopen, the Virginia Employment Commission announced Thursday.
“While certain circumstances, such as health, childcare or other caregiver responsibilities, may warrant continued payments of unemployment benefits to a claimant who has refused to return to work, the payments will be paused pending the outcome of an administrative review,” the commission said in a news release. The news release noted that approximately 400,000 job vacancies are currently posted on a state workforce website.
An employer is not required under the law to maintain an open position for an employee who refuses to return to work or who voluntarily quit, according to the commission, which in May added a prominent link on its homepage for employers to report individuals who refuse work.
In the 13 weeks since March 15, when measures to help stop the spread of the virus started taking a serious toll on the economy, the commission said it has received over 849,000 initial claims for unemployment benefits. It has approved and issued payments to a record 75% of those claimants and has paid out more than $4.2 billion to people who have lost wages during the COVID-19 pandemic, the news release said.
The commission has struggled to keep up with the unprecedented flood of calls and emails from claimants seeking help and has lagged far behind most other states in implementing the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which provides extra benefits to people who have exhausted their regular ones.
The commission said Thursday it has more than 79,000 cases pending an administrative review.