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WA petition wants unemployment claims processed in timely fashion

A stack of unemployment forms. (Getty Images)

In the midst of all the pain everyone is dealing with in this country today, there are still many people in Washington state who are have not received their unemployment benefits. Last week was supposed to be when everything would be fixed at the Employment Security Department, but the office has now confirmed there are more than 80,000 people qualified for unemployment who have not seen a check.

There is a petition before the state Supreme Court to get everyone their money. The Unemployment Law Project is working with the Sheridan Law Firm to force the claims to be processed quickly. Executive Director John Tirpak joined the show to discuss.

“We’re a nonprofit legal services office, and we give people advice about unemployment issues and also represent people in their hearings, and the problem now is that people are not getting hearings. People are still waiting for their claim to be processed, so they are not denied,” Tirpak said.

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“When you’re not denied, the issue doesn’t come up for hearing. Also, people who have requested hearings weeks ago are still waiting.”

What has it been like as an advocate for the unemployed to see what’s happening during this pandemic?

“During regular periods of unemployment, our offices might get maybe 30 or 40 calls a day. Now we’re getting over 100 calls a day, and that’s been going on since March,” Tirpak said. “Most of the calls are not just for advice or ‘I have a hearing coming up, I need help.’ It’s ‘I can’t get through, my application’s pending.'”

“This is what we’ve been hearing for months, and it is going on right now.”

What do they hope to accomplish with the petition?

“Well, there is a duty for a state agency to do their job, and especially with something like unemployment benefits, there is a duty for them to process claims in a timely manner. It doesn’t mean everyone who applies will get it. It means you should process claims within a couple weeks, which is normal,” he said.

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“And if a person is denied, they should be able to get a hearing within a few weeks after that. The whole purpose of unemployment benefits is to keep people from being homeless,” Tirpak said. “This current administration has failed because people have been waiting since March, April, and May.”

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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