Frequently Asked Questions on Unemployment Benefits

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How do I file a claim for unemployment assistance?
Unemployment assistance claims are filed through the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC).  Claims may be processed online here, by phone at 1-866-832-2362, or in person at a VEC work center. The closest centers are:


Emporia

1781 Greensville County Circle, Suite 300
Emporia, VA 23847
(434) 634-2326
(866) 270-9193 
(434) 634-9943 (fax)

Suffolk
157 North Main Street, Suite D
Suffolk, VA 23434
757-514-7743
757-923-5287 (fax)

What information do I need to file a claim?
In order to file a claim for assistance the following information is needed beforehand.  The filing process takes approximately 45 minutes to complete:
 
- Social Security Number
- Employer names, addresses, telephone numbers and dates of employment within the last 18 months.
- Name and local number of local union hall if you obtain work through a union.
- Alien Registration Number for non-U.S. citizens
- Mailing address, phone number, and dates of employment for any non-Virginia employers within the last 18 months.
- Method of Payment: Direct Deposit or VA Debit Card.  Direct Deposit selection will require your routing number (first 9 digits at the bottom of your checks) and account number (between 5-17 digits).

In what ways do I qualify for benefits?
There are a few ways you can qualify unemployment benefits.

Monetary Qualification
In order to qualify for benefits, you must have earned at least a total of $2,700 in two quarters in the Base Period.  This year is known as the Base Period. The amount of wages you earned will determine your Weekly Benefit Amount and the maximum number of weeks to which you will be entitled (duration of benefits explained below).

Work Separation Qualification
If you are unemployed for any reason other than lack of work, a decision will be made as to whether or not it qualifies you to receive benefits. If the decision is in your favor, you must also meet weekly eligibility requirements before you can receive benefits.  You will be ineligible, or disqualified, to receive benefits based on your separation if 1) VEC finds that you quit your job without good cause, or 2) that you were fired from your job for misconduct in connection with your work. To meet weekly eligibility requirements, you must be able to perform work, be available for work while placing no undue restrictions on your availability, and be actively seeking work. 

What does “actively seeking work” mean? 
“Actively seeking work” means that you personally visit several employers each week in your efforts to find work.  You are required provide the VEC, when requested, with information about each employer or company you visit while seeking work provide the VEC, when requested, with information about each employer or company you visit while seeking work maintain a record of your work search that includes the date of contact, complete name, address and telephone number of the employer/company contacted, name of the individual with whom you spoke, type of work sought, and result of contact.  If you do not make any or only one job contact during a week you wish to claim, you may be denied benefits for that week.

Are there other requirements I must follow if I accept unemployment benefits?
Yes. If you accept unemployment benefits, you must do the following:

  • You must accept all offers of suitable work, be registered for work with a VEC Workforce Center, accept any VEC referrals to work, report to the VEC when directed to do so, and report your income from any source. If you are working part-time and earn less than your weekly benefit amount, you are required to actively seek work and report your job contacts when filing your weekly claim for benefits.
  • If you are referred to a job by the VEC Workforce Center, you must visit the employer to which you are referred.
  • If you refuse a job offer, you will be contacted by VEC to provide additional information.  VEC will then determine if the work offered was suitable, or if you had good cause for refusing it. If the job was suitable and you did not have good cause for refusing it, you may be disqualified from receiving future benefits.
  • You must report all job offers that you decline when you file your weekly claim for benefits.

What is considered “suitable work?”
Many factors are taken into consideration in determining whether work is suitable. These factors include your previous work experience, your physical and mental fitness, risk to your health, safety, or morals, and the distance from your home.

If I am a member of a union, what are my work search requirements?
If you are a member of a union that has a local hiring hall and solicits work on your behalf, you may be required to seek work only through the union hiring hall. You need to inform VEC of your union affiliation and its services when you file your claim.

How much can I earn and still receive benefits?
Any wages over $50/week will be deducted from your weekly benefit amount. If your gross weekly wages are equal or greater than you unemployment benefit, you cannot receive benefits.

What if I attend school or a training program?
Be sure you report any classes you are taking during weeks claimed. You may receive benefits while attending school, depending upon the course of study and the required attendance each week. If you desire to attend school or a training program to improve your employment possibilities, you need to request approval in advance through your VEC Workforce Center.

What is the maximum amount of benefits I could receive?
The range of weekly benefit amounts is $60-$378. Your specific monetary determination will show the Amount and Duration of Benefits you are entitled to, based on your base period wages.  Once your claim is established and reflects all earnings during your base period, the amount you qualify for remains the same and is available to you until your maximum benefit amount or your benefit year is exhausted, whichever comes first. Individuals were eligible to receive 12 to 26 weeks of benefits. 

Are Unemployment Benefits taxable?
Benefits are subject to federal income tax. However, the stimulus package passed earlier this year suspends income taxation on the first $2,400 of unemployment benefits.

What do I do when I return to full-time work?
Report your return to work when you file your weekly claim for the week in which you returned to work. Be sure to advise VEC of your earnings, even if your employer does not pay you right away, or you may receive benefits that you will have to repay. You may be eligible for reduced benefits the first week you return to work depending on how much you earn.