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Advocates say massive change is needed at Virginia Employment Commission

More than 175,000 jobless Virginians are currently waiting for a resolution to unemployment claims, and Virginia is one of the slowest states in the country when it comes to resolving appeals. Those are some of the conclusions of a new report from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission.

Steve Fischbach at the Virginia Poverty Law Center says policymakers need to follow the recommendations of the report. "Hopefully this will get us on the path to fixing this agency so that when the next crisis hits, this agency will be better prepared for and will have capacity to address it."

It's not just getting a new computer system, although that's a big part of the fix. It's also funding the agency to make sure it has the staff needed to provide customer service so people know the status of their unemployment claims.

Martin Wegbreit at the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society says massive change is needed. "Tinkering at the margins will not work any longer. Of course, with a new administration coming in January there was going to be new leadership inevitably. We hope that the new administration will read this report, will follow this report and will hopefully improve things. I'm hoping that there's no place to go but up."

On the campaign trail, Glenn Youngkin called for "a complete and total overhaul" of the Virginia Employment Commission. He'll have a chance to make that happen after he's inaugurated in January.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.