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Labor Updates Services, Operational Changes and Unemployment Benefits

Virgin Islands Department of Labor (File photo)

The V.I. Department of Labor continues to give updates to help keep claimants informed as payments are processed for expansions or extensions made to the Unemployment Insurance benefit programs that were created to provide aid during the coronavirus pandemic.

Labor has taken a new approach to informing claimants beginning on April 19. After Governor Bryan’s weekly press briefing, the department will continue to provide a live, weekly Unemployment Insurance update. Labor is sharing the following information to be explained in-depth by the Unemployment Insurance team. It has processed a total of 20,954 claims broken down as follows: St. Thomas – 11,450; St. Croix – 6,076; Interstate – 2,215; and St. John – 1,213. The breakdown in the chart reflects the most accurate breakdown:

These are some frequently asked questions to help inform the public.

Is there a delay in benefit payments? Who is being affected?

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Some claimants are experiencing a delay in payments due to this transition from the CARES to the Continued Assistance Act. These claimants will be compensated retroactively for any missed payments once they meet the eligibility criteria.

Why is this delay occurring?

Individuals receiving unemployment benefits are compensated based on their employer contributions. The CARES Act programs utilize federal funds that must meet financial report requirements. These requirements are technical adjustments and website building to help protect people from possible fraud, identity theft or potential miscalculations. Once these adjustments are made funds can be released.

How will the pending benefit programs be implemented?

The Continued Assistance Act will transition in the American Rescue Plan Act recently signed by President Biden; as a result, payments will be processed from the CAA first before the ARPA can be implemented as the V.I. Department of Labor system will again require additional programming before payment of benefits can be made.

Are there any new delays to prepare for?

Due to the reprogramming of Labor’s system, it anticipates a delay in the implementation of the new programs (Continued Assistance Act and American Rescue Plan Act). This delay is unavoidable because the rules issued by the department for the implementation of these programs require that the system be reprogrammed. No federal funds can be administered/released without clearance from the federal partners’ guidance.

Fraud Watch Alerts:

To prevent the occurrence of fraud or possible identity theft, the V.I. Department of Labor requires that community members processing or inquiring information on behalf of an individual must complete the third-party access consent form.

The public is reminded that the website is the primary tool recommended when individuals seek to gain knowledge on specific programs. When reaching out to the department, especially those with a request for confidential/financial information, avoid using social media sites.

Client Service Updates:

Claimants may encounter issues with the online claim portal. To find out more information on accessing information online or to report issues with online accounts, claimants can visit the V.I. Department of Labor in person at respective district locations to report the issue.

Governor Bryan directed that all offices should be opened from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, for public engagement, (as was the case pre-COVID) as of Monday, Feb. 22. Labor readjusted its schedules accordingly to increase services while safeguarding against the spread of COVID-19.

To efficiently process the volume of claims filed for Unemployment Insurance, the department will need to use Mondays and Fridays for processing, filing and check runs. As a result, on Monday and Fridays, the department will serve the public via appointments only and with scheduled virtual meetings in all divisions, specifically on those days. The appointments will be scheduled by the respective divisions calling and emailing the client to schedule and confirm those appointments and virtual meetings between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Full in-person service is available to all clients from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Claimants can also get general information about their claims from the Interactive Voice Response system. The IVR system can be accessed by calling 340-715-5744. The claimants will need their security number and Personal Identification Number available to be able to access their claim information.

The contact numbers are back to the original contact lines: St. Thomas at 340-776-3700 and on St. Croix at 340-773-1994. No longer in effect: 1-877-374-0356. This former Call Center number is no longer operating.

The diagram on page 4 displays benefits payments and program disbursements that are presented by the title, including other details such as taxes withheld and numbers of checks cashed. Individuals with direct deposit will not be included in printed check data.

The following is the updated payment information for the Regular UI, the FPUC, the PUA, the PEUC, the LWAP and the Extended Benefits (EB) payments as of Wednesday, April 14.

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