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After 14 months of claiming unemployment benefits via an automated message and push of a few buttons, Virginians who remain on unemployment now have to begin actively looking for work and showing proof.

According to the Virginia Employment Commission, individuals wishing to request a weekly claim for payment of unemployment benefits will be required to do an active search for work and report those contacts when filing their weekly-continued claim for services to receive payment.

Individuals must make a minimum of two job contacts a week and report it online or over the phone.

According to a statement by Gov. Ralph Northam, now that the economy is beginning to recover and more Virginia employers are resuming business and reopening, the active work search requirement suspension is being removed.

The requirement by the Virginia Unemployment Commission Act was waived during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic in March of 2020.

This announcement comes in the wake of many businesses in the surrounding area which have had to reduce hours of operation due to a lack of available workers.

In Kenbridge, Town Manager Tony Matthews said they are having trouble filling two vacant positions due to lack of interest.

“I have had a police officer position and a full-time maintenance worker position open for almost a month,” Matthews said. “We have not been able to schedule interviews due to lack of applications. Both jobs are good jobs with benefits.”

In a recent survey from the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging and Travel Association, 84% of restaurants said current staffing levels are lower than average, with 42% saying they are more than 20% below normal levels.

Operations and Business Solutions Manager Terra Napier with the South Central Workforce Development Board, which serves job seekers in Lunenburg County, said things have been very slow with job seeker services during the past year and even the past several months.

“Our local businesses are struggling to find employees. We have not seen an increase yet in people seeking employment in the area,” Napier said. “I am currently working with businesses in all industry sectors that are currently having trouble finding individuals at this time.”

According to Napier, she has seen no specific industry that is in need of workers more than another.

“It is across the board with the hiring needs,” Napier said. “We have job openings from food service to manufacturing to administration open and available.”

Virginia’s current unemployment rate is at 4.7% compared to 5.1% last month and 11.3% last year.