RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A federal judge has approved a settlement in a lawsuit focused on a beleaguered part of Virginia's unemployment system in an effort to speed up benefits for people who are out of work.

U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson approved the settlement Tuesday in a suit filed last month on behalf of five women who alleged “gross failures” to provide needed help as required by law amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Virginia has done well in quickly processing simple unemployment benefits for eligible individuals as applications surged amid the pandemic, but the state has recently been dead last for timely processing of certain claims that require additional adjudication, data show.

The judge's order directs the Virginia Employment Commission to increase the number of unemployment insurance claims adjudicated each week. It also says that the agency shall “substantially resolve" at least 95% of unpaid claims awaiting adjudication by Labor Day.

It also directs the commission to improve communication with applicants and recipients and begin planning for a process to automatically provide information to each claimant about how to apply for other government assistance programs.

“I was cut off benefits, without information or a chance to fight for them, nine months ago. It’s beyond frustrating not to know what’s going on – and my daughter and I lost our apartment in the process. It’s time for Virginia to fix this,” Amber Dimmerling, one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement.

The commission said in a statement that the settlement is a reflection of its ongoing efforts “to speed up the processing of claims in adjudication, which represent just 4% of all claims.”

The agency said that in addition to hiring hundreds of staff and contractors, it also recently hired a private sector partner with 300 additional staff to expand adjudication.

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam issued an order last month directing the agency to commence with many of the same initiatives outlined in the settlement.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs said the judge's order approving the settlement pauses the litigation while the agency works to implement the terms.