Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring and Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear have asked a federal bankruptcy trustee for immediate payment of wages owed to Blackjewel LLC employees.

The company idled its coal mines and processing facilities in Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia and Wyoming July 1, the day it filed for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in West Virginia.

Employees paid in late June had their checks “clawed back” because the company’s initial short-term financing fell through, leaving no funds to cover payroll.

In a Tuesday press release, Herring and Beshear stated that their request went to the Office of the U.S. Trustee.

“About 480 Virginia workers and 600 Kentucky workers have reportedly missed their paychecks after Blackjewel unexpectedly filed for bankruptcy on July 1,” they stated.

“It is absolutely outrageous that hundreds of Virginia workers are being forced to overdraft their bank accounts and scramble to make ends meet because Blackjewel couldn’t get its act together,” Herring said. “Even more egregious than the missed paychecks are the reports that some employees actually had their wages taken back out after the money had shown up in their accounts. These workers deserve the wages they earned and I’m going to use every tool at my disposal to make sure they get paid. The company should also take care of any negative consequences caused by their recklessness, like overdrafts or late fees.”

Meanwhile, the Virginia Employment Commission is scrambling to assist workers displaced by the bankruptcy filing.

The VEC held events Tuesday and Wednesday in Norton, St. Charles and Richlands to sign workers up for unemployment benefits and connect with other job opportunities.

Blackjewel employees can file for unemployment benefits and access additional support online at www.vec.virginia.gov, by calling the customer contact center at 866/832-2363 or by visiting a Career Works Center.

The center serving Norton and the counties of Wise, Lee, Scott and Dickenson is the VEC office at 1725 Park Ave. SW, Norton. The phone number is 276/679-9413.

Gov. Ralph Northam has directed the commission to waive the standard week-long waiting period for unemployment benefits for affected employees. Northam also authorized overtime pay for Virginia Career Works representatives helping to connect displaced workers with job training programs and new career opportunities.

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