OLYMPIA – Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine released this statement today about Washingtonians awaiting unemployment benefits:

“While the team at the Employment Security Department has helped hundreds of thousands of people get unemployment benefits since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, we know that there are still many who are awaiting their payments. It is beyond frustrating for these individuals and we will continue to work night and day until everyone receives their benefits.

“Unfortunately, resolving these issues takes both people and time. Claims may be pending for a number of reasons, the most common of which is a discrepancy between the information the employee entered when applying for unemployment, and the information reported to us by their employer. In order to make sure the customer is eligible for benefits, and to ensure due process for both the employee and employer, these cases need to be adjudicated.

“Under normal circumstances, cases are adjudicated within 21 days. That means additional information is requested and reviewed by a trained adjudicator and a decision is made in about three weeks. However, right now is anything but normal. We’ve had more claims in the past 7 weeks than we had in the prior 3.5 years combined! The work of an adjudicator requires specialized training and additional skill development in order to make sure these cases are fairly and accurately processed, and it takes time to staff up this team. In the meantime, we know that people continue to wait for an answer.

“It is our agency’s number one priority to get benefits to those people who are eligible for some form of unemployment assistance and who are still waiting. These are the four things we’re doing right now to address this issue:

  • Getting people who are eligible to be paid to take action. Tens of thousands of people have not filed their weekly claim, or do not know they are should apply for expanded unemployment benefits under the federal CARES Act. Targeted emails will remind them to take these important steps.
  • Reaching out to those in adjudication for various reasons and updating them on the work we are doing to resolve their situation.
  • Bulk-clearing certain issues when we can. For example, people who noted that they are a student as well as an employee, typically must show that they have enough hours in their week outside of school available to work. With most schools canceled, this is an issue we have been able bulk-clear from many applicants, speeding up the process for many of those folks to be paid.
  • Bringing on more customer service staff to both help people across the state process their claims and get through on the phones and free up our adjudicators to do the specialized work of resolving claims issues. We’ve more than tripled our claims staff and we continue to hire, so please go to esd.wa.gov/esdjobs to see current postings.

“We know people are struggling all across the state and many are in desperate situations. These are our friends, neighbors and families. I am so sorry that we haven’t been able to provide everyone with relief when they need it and we will continue to work hard to eliminate this backlog and get money to all those who are eligible as quickly as possible.”

Commissioner LeVine also shared a video about this topic on Wednesday.