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Virginia won’t require people to search for jobs to get unemployment checks in Phase 1

(Photo: Piqsels / CC0 1.0 / License Link)(MGN)
(Photo: Piqsels / CC0 1.0 / License Link)(MGN)(KWQC)
Published: May. 15, 2020 at 1:56 PM EDT
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Businesses from shopping malls to barbershops are making plans to reopen Friday under Gov. Ralph Northam’s loosened stay-at-home restrictions.

But for now, the more than 300,000 people receiving unemployment benefits through the state won’t have to go out every week looking for jobs to continue receiving weekly checks.

Northam’s chief workforce adviser, Megan Healy, said the administration had been considering reinstating the program’s job search requirement as part of the first phase of the state’s reopening. Normally, recipients must certify weekly that they applied for at least two jobs — a requirement Northam waived in March amid mass business closures.

Healy said the administration ultimately decided against bringing back the rule because Northam agreed to allow Northern Virginia to keep tighter business restrictions in place. She also noted that the state’s 61 workforce and job training centers remain closed.

“I want to make sure people that are doing the work search, they have someone there that can hold their hand and work with them if they’re looking for a new job or their job isn’t there anymore,” she said.

Asked when people should expect the requirement to be put back in place, she said, “It will probably be weeks out.”

Some employers have worried it will be difficult to convince workers to return to low-wage jobs because Congress approved an extra $600 a week for unemployed workers through July 31.

“My line cooks are making $960 a week on unemployment and none of them want to come back because I can’t pay them that. I don’t blame them,” restaurant owner and chef Joe Sparatta

But employers do have a stick they can wield if a worker refuses a job offer. If they inform the Virginia Employment Commission, the person’s benefits are suspended.

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The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.

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