The state is one of 16 to get word that it no longer meets that definition based on several factors, including an improving labor participation rate, a measure of the population working or looking for work. The benefits will continue for now in neighboring Maryland and the District, which are not among the jurisdictions that have seen sufficient improvements in their economies.
While an improving economy should be good news for all Virginians, the benefits cutoff could hurt those who remain out of work. State officials expressed sympathy for them and renewed calls for Congress and President Trump to agree on a spending package that would send a second round of stimulus checks to Americans. But hopes seemed to be fading that they will strike a deal before Trump leaves office.
“While it’s certainly positive that Virginia’s economy is improving, there are still millions of families in need of additional support,” Alena Yarmosky, spokeswoman for Gov. Ralph Northam (D), said in an email. “That’s why Governor Northam is continuing to urge Congress to come together and pass an immediate COVID-19 relief package — we simply can’t wait any longer.”
The extended benefits program offers an additional 13 weeks of help to people who have exhausted their 26 weeks of traditional unemployment assistance and the 13 weeks of benefits available under the federal Cares Act.
The “extended benefits,” known as “EB,” took effect May 31 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The program has been used in the past in times of economic hardship, when the unemployed do not have much chance of finding work.
The U. S. Department of Labor informed the Virginia Employment Commission this week that the extended benefits would not be authorized after Nov. 21.
“You may have a balance of EB weeks remaining on your monetary determination, but no EB benefits can be paid after the week ending November 21, 2020,” reads a message the commission posted on its website this week.
Although coronavirus cases have been rising in Virginia all fall, leading Northam to tighten certain restrictions on businesses and private gatherings, the economy has shown signs of improvement. The number of continuing unemployment claims in Virginia was 85,000 for the filing week ending Nov. 14, down from a high of 400,000 in May.
That’s also down 7.4 percent from the previous week. But it still far exceeds the 17,600 claims from the comparable week a year ago, according to commission figures. Over half of the claims were in the hotel, food service, health care, administrative support and retail industries, according to the commission.
Ovetta Wiggins and Julie Zauzmer contributed to this report.