Laid-off bartender: Nine weeks without unemployment payment from ESD
There are many people in Washington state who have lost their job during the pandemic, and many more who are still waiting on a response or a payment from the Employment Security Department. These payments have partially been delayed due to the fraud that impacted the ESD, but it’s been a problem for weeks.
Steve Weaver was a bartender in Portland before being laid off because of COVID-19 closures. Before that job, he worked in Washington for two and a half years, which is where he had to file his unemployment claim.
“It has now been over nine weeks, and I haven’t gotten any money,” Weaver told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross. “I am currently living out of my car. I’m diabetic, so I had to start driving for DoorDash to afford insulin.”
“I didn’t have time to wait for unemployment,” he added. “So now, again, nearly, over actually, two months later, and I’m still waiting for anything at all from them.”
Part of the problem was that he started working for DoorDash, which initially got in the way of his claim. But there is an appeal process to follow with the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
“I should have been able to file for that or appeal my original claim,” he said. “Unfortunately, there was no option to appeal, and nobody has called me back regarding the adjudication since.”
If you’ve lost your job, and can’t get the unemployment payment, then you try to get another job, you’re essentially punished for it, Dave noted.
“Exactly, there’s no winning,” Weaver said. “… I don’t have the choice to not have an income, and that is the choice that hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians are having to make right now. Of course there are programs, and certain creditors are giving some leeway, but they’re under no obligation to do so.”
Weaver said at least 300,000 people haven’t even seen a dime, and another 400,000 to 500,000 had payments coming that were stopped or held up by the fraud sweep.
“So much of this could have been prevented by the most rudimentary of identification verification,” Weaver said. “It wasn’t until last Saturday that they asked me to email or send them a picture of my driver’s license and my Social Security card. When that request came, I was able to do it in 25 minutes. That’s not an arduous burden for the people who need this money.”
Had these simple checks started at the beginning, Weaver thinks the ESD wouldn’t have lost as much money to the scammers.
He does recognize that some of the verification steps were skipped early on in order to get checks to people quickly.
“I very much appreciate the governor’s drive to get payments out because obviously that was extremely important. However, there has to be that balance,” Weaver said. “In a situation like this, any time there’s a catastrophe, a disaster, you know, 9/11 or natural disasters, scammers are going to come out of the woodwork. We know that this is gonna happen. History repeats itself every time there’s a situation like this pandemic.”
He wishes there had been the foresight to have the system in place.
“The Employment Security Department has failed miserably,” he added. “And we need a solution.”
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