The number of unemployed Virginians increased from 145,294 in March 2020 to 482,111 in April 2020 causing unemployment insurance claims to increase ten-fold within a month! In addition to the rising number of unemployed, Congress created several temporary programs to extend unemployment insurance benefits and expand them to many previously ineligible workers. Since those federal programs are administered by the states, the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) was overwhelmed with claims. In the fall of 2020 VEC ranked lowest nationwide for timeliness in processing unemployment insurance claims that required further review. Citizens were understandably frustrated and upset with a process that has left some without benefits for many months. My office, along with that of other legislators, was deluged with e-mails and calls from those desperately seeking help. My legislative assistant has put in many extra hours helping constituents with their filings and follow up.
A review of unemployment rates throughout the Commonwealth reveals that the rise in unemployment was statewide with areas having a high rate of unemployment going into the pandemic getting hit the hardest, but more prosperous areas got hit as well. According to data on the VEC website, the rate of unemployment for March 2021, the last period for which numbers are available, ranged from a low of 3.2 percent in Madison County, an agricultural area in the center of the state, to a high of 12.9 percent in Petersburg City, one of the poorest areas in the state. On the low end of the unemployment numbers, Falls Church City was number 2 with a rate of 3.4 percent, and Fairfax County was 39th lowest at a rate of 4.6 percent. On the high end, Richmond was 7.1 percent, and the cities in the Hampton Roads region including Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Hopewell ranged from 7.1 percent to 10.0 percent, just below Petersburg City.
The COVID-19 relief checks were very helpful in slowing the slide of the economy toward recession levels of unemployment. The additional funding now being debated in the Congress for infrastructure and additional relief will shore up the economy further until the normal activity of the economy returns with the end of the pandemic. I will leave to economists to debate the amount of stimulus needed to restore the economy, but I can say that the federal money that has flowed into the state has prevented widespread reductions in staff and services that would have been necessary without that funding.
For those who have borne the brunt of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic I can only offer my sympathy and compassion for what you have had to endure. I continue to be impressed with the resiliency of individuals and communities in times of challenge like these. The response of state government in this pandemic was unsatisfactory. True the bureaucracy was swamped with requests, but we should have been quicker to respond. True our existing technology was not up to the demand, but the technology that was to have been upgraded should have been done years ago. As Chairman of the Joint Legislative Audit Review Commission (JLARC), I promise that the results of the study that we are undertaking of VEC will address current concerns and provide recommendations to prevent this kind of situation from arising again!
Virginia to Change Vaccine Scheduling Systems — Fairfax County residents will finally follow the same approach to obtaining COVID-19 vaccine appointments as the rest of the state, as the Virginia Department of Health says its statewide system will also be retired on Sunday (April 18) in favor of self-scheduling through Vaccine Finder. [Patch]
Lawsuit Filed over Virginia’s Unemployment Benefits — “Several legal groups filed a federal class-action suit on Thursday against the Virginia Employment Commission for its failure to reach residents with unemployment benefits, and abruptly cutting off payments to others without explanation.” [DCist]
Fish Released into Lake Thoreau — Reston Association stocked Lake Thoreau with 80 triploid grass carp this past Sunday (April 18). RA says that the fish are part of its plan to “help manage aquatic plants such as hydrilla” in the lake and must be released if caught while fishing. [RA/Twitter]
Reston Nonprofit to Give Free Food to Those in Need — Cornerstones will hold a free food distribution event tomorrow (Saturday) in the parking lot of the Fairfax County Department of Family Services building at Lake Anne (11484 Washington Plaza West). The grocery bags will contain toiletries as well as fresh produce, and they will be distributed from 10 a.m. to noon, though spaces are limited. [Lake Anne Elementary School]
Hunter Mill District Bike Tour Sold Out — Tickets for the inaugural Tour de Hunter Mill sold out yesterday. Scheduled for May 15, the event will take cyclists on a scenic tour from Reston to Vienna and back, but attendance was capped at 150 riders to ensure social distancing. [Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling/Twitter]
Wind Advisory In Effect Today — The National Weather Service has issued a wind advisory from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. today. Gusty windows could blow around unsecured objects and some power outages may be expected. [NWS]
Work on Lake Anne Garden Plot Begins — Reston Association is installing a 10-foot black vinyl fence around the perimeter of the garden. The project is expected to be completed within two weeks. [RA]
Fairfax County Jobless Rates Dip — The county’s unemployment rate fell nearly half a half-percent from December to January as part of an ongoing but slow trend toward recovery. [Sun Gazette]
Brabrand to Host Town Hall — Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand will host a virtual town hall meeting from 6-7 p.m. on Monday, April 12. He plans to discuss Gov. Ralph Northam’s latest guidance of graduations and other school events. [FCPS]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Fairfax County should provide hazard pay to all local government workers, a union that represents more than 2,000 general county employees argues.
The county is currently considering a proposal to provide a one-time $1,500 hazard pay bonus to workers who are at high risk of exposure to COVID-19. Staff say about 4,000 employees would be eligible for the benefit.
However, SEIU Virginia 512 — the Fairfax County government employees’ union — says the bonus should be available to all workers, because they have all taken risks and been forced to adapt so the county can keep providing essential services during the pandemic.
As of yesterday (Wednesday), a petition urging Fairfax County supervisors to extend $1,500 hazard pay bonuses to all staff has been signed by nearly 1,000 workers, with more signatures expected to come, according to SEIU Senior Communications Specialist Rachel Mann.
“We’ve all been impacted by what’s going on. Whether we are doing our assigned work or not, we are still working,” SEIU Virginia 512 Executive Board President Tammie Wondong said. “…We are continuing to keep Fairfax County running. Residents are being continually served. So, that’s why everyone needs to have hazard pay.”
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors was initially scheduled to vote on the proposed plan on Tuesday (Jan. 26), but the decision was postponed after Chairman Jeff McKay asked staff to continue discussions with the union and other workers’ groups.
Under the staff plan, hazard pay would go to workers whose risk of being exposed to COVID-19 is rated “high” or “very high” by the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health (VOSH) risk assessment. It would also be limited to merit or career positions.
Fairfax County intends to pay for the bonuses using CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds. Federal guidelines, however, dictate that CARES Act money can only be used for hazard pay if an employee is performing duties that involve physical hardship related to COVID-19 response efforts.
In other words, localities must establish criteria for hazard pay eligibility to use CARES relief funds, Fairfax County Department of Management and Budget Director Christina Jackson told the board on Jan. 12.
The county could use its own funds to extend hazard pay to more workers, but McKay suggests employees should temper their expectations for the upcoming Fiscal Year 2022 budget.
“Based on the economic impacts of the ongoing pandemic, it will be challenging to address many of the Board’s priorities in the FY2022 [budget],” McKay said in a statement to Tysons Reporter. “The budget is still early stages and we are exploring what options are available, but it is unlikely we would have the resources to increase hazard pay funding in the next budget cycle.”
SEIU Virginia 512 supports the amount of the proposed bonus, which came out of talks between workers’ groups and county staff, but the union argues restricting hazard pay to select positions and agencies ignores the risks all employees face when doing their jobs.
For instance, a sanitation worker may not typically come into direct contact with the residents whose trash they collect, but their job still requires them to regularly go out into the community.
“You don’t know who you’re passing, and you don’t know who’s infected. You just don’t know,” Wondong said. “It’s a risk that we take just coming in and out of our homes every day.”
The burden placed on workers who test positive for COVID-19 to prove they contracted the disease through their job could also potentially be a concern.
Further complicating matters, Fairfax County has been reassigning many employees to duties outside their usual purview as some departments have reduced operations and others have ramped up during the pandemic.
Wondong is a social worker for the county’s aging and older adults services division, but she is currently working in a different role for her department, one that allows her to work from home but also normally carries a higher salary than what she’s being paid.
Wondong says hazard pay would not be up for debate if Fairfax County employees had stronger collective bargaining powers to guarantee equitable compensation and working conditions.
“What we believe as a union is that all county workers deserve fairness and equity when it comes to pay and benefits. That’s what we believe,” Wondong said.
Photo via Fairfax County government/Facebook
People whose employment has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic may now be eligible to receive free job training from the Fairfax County Department of Family Services.
According to a news release published on Nov. 19, DFS will cover up to $1,000 in training costs for individuals who are looking to gain new skills in the high-demand industries of healthcare, information technology, skilled trades, public safety, and early childhood education.
Anyone who lost a job due to the impact of COVID-19 and received unemployment benefits on or after Aug. 1 is eligible to apply, along with anyone who was laid off from a full-time job due to COVID-19 and now earns less than $15 per hour working part-time.
The offer of job training support comes as part of a Re-Employing Virginians (REV) initiative launched by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s office on Oct. 30.
Funded by $30 million from the federal CARES Act, the REV initiative aims to mitigate the long-term economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic by providing one-time $3,000 scholarships for workforce training.
The funds are being administered by the Virginia Community College System and localities in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, which, combined, represented nearly 50 percent of all unemployment claims in the state as of the end of October, according to the governor’s office.
“Investing in programs that help people develop skills in high-demand fields is a win for workers, employers, and our economy,” Northam said. “As we focus on recovering from the impacts of the global pandemic, the new REV initiative will give Virginians the resources they need to get back on their feet and help ensure that our Commonwealth emerges from this public health crisis even stronger than we were before.”
The application deadline for the DFS program is Dec. 8, and training must be completed by Dec. 29.
People interested in applying should contact DFS REV Intake Specialist Ziyoda Crew at 571-536-1979 or email the department at [email protected]
Individuals can also apply for short-term training or certification programs at Northern Virginia Community College by certifying their eligibility for the REV initiative and registering for a training voucher by Dec. 14.
Photo via Bruce Mars/Unsplash
Herndon Man Arrested in Assault Case — Davon Anthony Perry, 22, of Herndon was charged with aggravated assault, brandishing a firearm and destruction of property after he turned himself in. Police believe Perry shot a woman he knew with a BB gun multiple times. [Herndon Police Department]
Virtual Career Fairs Connect Job Seekers — “Despite the pandemic, Northern Virginia’s robust job market remains strong–with more than 60,000 job openings in the region, including 34,000 in Fairfax County. But interviewing and hiring can be a challenge because of social-distancing protocols in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) has stepped in with virtual job fairs that connect job-seekers with companies that cannot hold in-person events.” [Fairfax County Economic Development Authority]
Second Summer Set Down End in Sight — “Metro tells ABC7 work is going faster than expected at some of the nine stations that shut down this summer as part of its second ‘summer shutdown.’In addition to the entire Silver Line, Metro shut down four Orange Line stations in Virginia back on Memorial Day weekend. The Orange Line stations were shut down in order to do platform reconstruction work.” [WJLA]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Several local businesses and restaurants have laid off workers due to COVID-19 pandemic in recent months.
Businesses filed notices through the Virginia Employment Commission, which requires businesses with more than 100 employees to provide advanced notice of layoffs affecting more than 50 employees or business closings.
In Reston and Herndon, six businesses filed notices, totaling more than 450 layoffs.
Nearly all notices filed with the VEC were attributed to the pandemic. The following is a breakdown of major layoffs since March 1 through today:
- Hyatt Regency (1800 Presidents Street): 88 workers
- The Westin at Reston Heights (11750 Sunrise Valley Drive): 32
- Barcelona Wine Bar (12023 Town Square Street): 66
- Jackson’s Mighty Fine Food and Luck Lounge (11927 Democracy Drive): 137
- BridgeStreet Corporate Housing (1180 Sunrise Valley Drive): 68
Bartaco let go of 175 employees across its Fairfax and Reston locations.
Photo by Chris Gordon/Flickr
Northern Virginia Unemployment Rate Hits 10 Percent — “A total of 163,158 Northern Virginia residents were unemployed and looking for work during the month, the Virginia Employment reported Wednesday. That number is based on a survey of households and is different from the number of unemployment claims reported weekly. Over 220,000 regional residents have filed first-time claims for unemployment since the pandemic began in mid-March, but nearly 45% of those have also returned to work.” [Inside NOVA]
IRivet Designs App to Make Employees Feel Safe — “The 12-year-old company, which often builds apps for its clients, has developed a platform to help other businesses transition back to work. MyHealthyWork is a web and mobile application that tracks employees’ self-reported health information, whereabouts and interactions. The product, now a week into its beta phase, is slated to launch by mid-June.” [Washington Business Journal]
County to Offer Free Vaccine Clinics — The county is hosting seven vaccination clinics throughout the health district. Vaccines for children will be offered free of charge. Health officials worry that routine immunization services are being delayed due to stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements. [Fairfax County Government]
Free Online Summer Arts Program — “Fairfax County Public Schools will offer a free online arts enrichment program for current K-12 students over for five weeks from July 6 to August 7. A variety of classes will be offered in art, music, theater, and dance.” [FCPS]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
After a surge of new jobless claims seeking unemployment benefits in April, Fairfax County is seeing a steady decline in initial unemployment claims.
Roughly 5,300 initial unemployment claims were filed in the county for the week of May 16 — a drop from 7,000 during the week of May 2, according to the latest data from the Virginia Employment Commission.
Meanwhile, continued unemployment claims — now at 47,000 for the week of May 16 — are rising less quickly in the county.
The county’s unemployment trends mirror statewide data.
More from the VEC:
For the filing week ending May 16, the figure for seasonally unadjusted initial claims in Virginia was 44,699. The latest claims figure was a decrease of 7,440 claimants from the previous week. The weekly total was the lowest since before the initial spike in unemployment insurance claims during the March 21 filing week.
For the most recent filing week, continued weeks claimed totaled 403,557, up 2.8% from the previous week and 385,380 higher than the 18,177 continued claims from the comparable week last year.
The continued claims total is mainly comprised of those recent initial claimants who continued to file for unemployment insurance benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus far, continued claims during the May 16 filing equaled 56% of all initial claims filed during the pandemic. This percentage was a significant drop-off from the previous week.
VEC’s preliminary data indicate that the pandemic has hurt the accommodation and food service industry the most.
Workers in that industry “continued to see the greatest percentage of continued claims for unemployment benefits” for the May 16 filing week, VEC said. “Moreover, claimants in that industry comprised over a quarter of pre-pandemic payroll employment.”
Data and image via Virginia Employment Commission
Fairfax County Needs Contact Tracers — “The Virginia Department of Health said Thursday it’s searching for bilingual candidates as it hires 1,300 contact tracers. It says it will deploy tracking software and enforceable quarantine orders alongside these tracers to more aggressively counter the spread of the virus.”
Design Review Board Meeting Set for Next Week — Reston Association’s Design Review Board will meet on May 27 at 6 p.m. The board is responsible for reviewing additions and changes to different types of Reston properties. [RA]
Weekly Wages Rise in Fairfax County — “The average weekly wage for those working in Fairfax (wherever they may live) stood at $1,735 in the fourth quarter of 2019, according to data reported May 20 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s an increase of 2.1 percent from the same period a year before, below the national growth rate of 3.5 percent (to $1,185).” [Inside NoVa]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Fairfax County continues to have thousands of unemployment claims during the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 7,000 initial unemployment claims were filed in the county for the week of May 2, according to the latest data from the Virginia Employment Commission.
The latest data shows a slow decrease of claims in the county from a spike during the week of April 4. Fairfax County had the largest number of initial claims in Virginia for the May 2 filing week.
“Most areas reported declining numbers of claims compared to the previous week,” the VEC said. “Fairfax reported the largest over-the-week decrease (-2,097).”
Meanwhile, the number of continued claims keeps rising in Fairfax County from nearly 3,000 in late March to 30,000 in mid-April to more than 44,000 during the week of May 2.
The data shows a decrease in the number of claimants from the previous week for Virginia, but the VEC warns that the volume of initial claims “may not return to pre-pandemic levels for some time.”
More data on the trends for initial and continued claims in Virginia:
Data and image via Virginia Employment Commission
Unemployment claims due to the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic continue to pour in.
Nearly 14,500 Fairfax County residents filed unemployment claims on the week of April 11, according to the latest unemployment data.
Overall, the number of statewide claims between March 21 and April 11 — 410,762 — is only 67,000 fewer than the average of all initial claims filed during the last three economic recessions, according to the Virginia Employment Commission. More than 121,000 Northern Virginia residents have filed claims since business closures began.
The latest claims figure, however, represents a decrease of 42,750 statewide claims and 6,848 countywide claims from the previous week, according to data from the commission.
The commission noted that the overall 29 percent decrease in the number of claims suggests that most people filed unemployment claims during the week of April 4.
Here’s more from the commission:
Initial claims measure emerging unemployment and the recent increase in initial claims in the Commonwealth is clearly attributable to impacts from the COVID-19 virus. The accommodation and food service industries have comprised the majority of these initial claims. Because of their prevalence in those and other affected industries like retail and health care, younger workers and female workers have been disproportionally impacted. The number of initial claims filed during the week ending April 11, 2020 was 45.6 times higher than the comparable 2019 week–an increase of 102,326 claims.
Despite a dip in the number of claims, the commission noted that claims still remain at historically high levels.
On the national level, the number of initial claims has totaled roughly 5.2 million, a decrease of 1.4 million from the previous week. During a comparable week in 2019, only 196,364 claims were filed countrywide.
The number of unemployment claims in Fairfax County skyrocketed last month, according to the most recent unemployment numbers.
Claims jumped from a mere 145 the week of March 14 to 4,345 the following week. As of March 28, that number ballooned to 12,109 claims. The latest numbers offer a glimpse into the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as thousands of county residents lose their jobs.
The county’s unemployment insurance claims data are similar to the statewide picture. The number of claims filed during the week ending on March 28 was 110,397 higher than the comparable 2019 week, representing a 5,000 percent increase.
The Virginia Employment Commission says initial claims measure the clear economic impact of the COVID-19 virus. Although many areas are reporting layoffs in service-related industries like accommodation and food services, the commission notes that there are indications that layoffs “are bordering to affect a wider range of industries.”
From the ground up — Ken Yarmosh was on the ground floor of app development when he founded Savvy Apps of Reston in 1999. Now he’s working with Fortune 500 companies and being recognized by Google and Apple for his contributions. [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Local unemployment numbers — Northern Virginia’s unemployment rate fell from 2.7 percent to 2.4 percent in July. The statewide rate was 2.9 percent compared to the national rate of 4.1 percent. [Virginia Business]
Final Summerbration concert tonight — Join Chris Vadala with the Rick Whitehead Trio for a fresh mix of bebop jazz tonight at Reston Station Plaza. Parking is free from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Follow signs to ParkX. [Reston Community Center]
Flickr pool photo by vantagehill
Herndon Woman 10 Years Into Breast Cancer Fight — On her 50th birthday, Anita Hyman got the call that she had breast cancer. After a mastectomy, she is now celebrating her 60th birthday with her family. [WUSA]
SLHS Band Honored — The South Lakes High School marching band won first place in its class for best music, overall effect, percussion and visual at the USBands NOVA Regional recently. [South Lakes Band/Twitter]
Bulova Among ‘Most Powerful Women’ in DC Area — Washingtonian says Bulova’s “role in getting the Silver Line’s first phase completed, despite Metro’s budget problems” has cemented support for her. [Washingtonian]
No Change in County Unemployment Rate — The unemployment rate in Fairfax County in August was 3.1 percent, unchanged from July. That’s ahead of the 3.8 percent rate in Virginia and the 4.5 percent rate nationwide. [Inside NoVa]
Reston Company Provides Tablets to Inmates — Reston-based Global Tel Link is working with jails, including in Indiana’s Allen County, to provide secure tablets to inmates. The inmates are using them for communication, music, games and other activities. [Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette]