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Washington announces it has cleared unemployment backlog of over 81,000 claims

Gov. Jay Inslee alongside ESD Commissioner Suzie LeVine. (ESD, Facebook)

As of last Friday, Washington’s Employment Security Department says it has now officially cleared its backlog of over 81,500 unemployment claims filed between March and June.

Thousands of Washington residents still waiting on jobless benefits

ESD Commissioner Suzi LeVine made the announcement during a Monday press conference, stating that while she is “not declaring mission accomplished,” she is “declaring ‘milestone met.'”

Claims for jobless benefits in Washington had been delayed for months since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, following a half-billion-dollar wave of fraudulent claims that flooded the state’s system in the spring. That saw many with legitimate claims waiting weeks, and even months, for unemployment benefits, while others were forced to contend with false claims made in their names by fraudsters.

With its initial backlog of cases cleared, ESD now hopes that it will be able to distribute benefits on a more stable basis.

“As we kick off August, what we need now is to pivot from crisis to consistency,” LeVine said Monday.

Jobless payment delays have had ‘disastrous collateral consequences’

This came as part of what ESD dubbed “Operation 100%” in early May, which saw the department tripling its staff, while also enlisting the assistance of the National Guard to help process outstanding claims.

On the national level, talks in Congress on a huge coronavirus relief measure resumed on Saturday, focused on restoring a newly expired $600-per-week supplemental unemployment benefit, a fresh $1,200 direct payment to most Americans, and hundreds of billions of dollars in other aid to states, businesses and the poor.

The $600-per-week jobless benefit officially lapsed on Friday and Democrats have made it clear that they will not extend it without securing other relief priorities. Whatever unemployment aid negotiators agree on will be made retroactive — but antiquated state unemployment systems are likely to take weeks to restore the benefits.

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