Tens of thousands of Washington residents still waiting on jobless benefits
The unemployment picture continues to be grim across the country. More than a million Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week, and people in Washington are still having trouble getting their benefit checks.
This marks 17 straight weeks that a million people have filed for first-time benefits in the United States. The official number is 1.3 million, down slightly from the week before. The national unemployment rate now sits just under 12%.
CBS News Business Analyst Jill Schlesinger said this continues to be unprecedented.
“Before the pandemic, the all-time high for weekly claims was 695,000; that was during the recession in 1982,” she said.
And this latest figure doesn’t include jobs lost in the recent steps back in reopening the economy as the nation deals with new increases in COVID-19 cases.
There is concern this number will start trending up near the end of the month, which is when the $600 a week in bonus unemployment is set to end. Congress is fighting over whether to extend that extra amount through January.
This is the backdrop as tens of thousands of people in Washington state are still waiting to get their unemployment money. Many have been waiting since the pandemic shutdown started in March. This is largely due to a half-billion-dollar wave of fraudulent claims that flooded Washington’s system in the spring.
Attorney Andra Krantzler sued the Employment Security Department six weeks ago on behalf of clients who still haven’t been given their benefits.
“ESD made the decision to treat every claimant as a fraud imposter when they decided to pause benefits, requiring identification, and then when people sent in identification, not promptly resolving the issue for the claimant,” she said.
Maryland just revealed that an organized group of scammers hit the state with 47,000 fake unemployment claims, totaling more than $500 million.
A personal aside: I feel incredibly lucky. Not only have I been able to keep my job during this pandemic, but the Employment Security Department has finally cleared my name in a fraudulent unemployment benefit claim.
I received a letter about six weeks after a claim was fraudulently filed in my name in March. It was the first indication that anything was going on. It was asking if I needed any assistance trying to find work. I immediately filed a fraud alert with the ESD, the credit bureaus, and even the FTC, because I couldn’t get any returned emails or phone calls. ESD told me it was just too busy to answer these calls.
I recently received another letter from the agency saying it has confirmed my identity and has removed the claim from my social security number. While that is great, someone still has my social security number and is willing to use it.