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‘Nobody will answer the phone’: Washingtonians still waiting on unemployment checks

It’s been a month now since Suzi LeVine, the head of Washington’s Employment Security Department, said the state had cleared the backlog. However, listeners have reached out to KIRO Radio’s Gee & Ursula Show to say that’s not the case, and they’re still waiting on their first unemployment checks.

Jeff Hermsen has been waiting five months.

“I probably started applying in early April,” he said. “And I had a written job offer with a start date of March 23, however, due to the pandemic and the construction shutdown, that got shut off.”

Hermsen tried to help the company with consulting, but he still wasn’t being paid.

“I’ve been applying [for unemployment] since April and all I get is disqualified, disqualified, disqualified,” he said. “And nobody will answer the phone. Every time I call ESD, it shuts me off, and they give you another number, and it shuts you off due to the volume of calls.”

It seems, he says, like the ESD isn’t even looking at the claims.

“I think they don’t even look at it,” he said. “I think they just click a button.”

Family waiting on unemployment forced to ‘sell everything out of the house’

Hermsen wanted to speak out because he knows he’s not the only one in this situation, and he recognizes that he could be worse off. He says he’s lucky to have a supportive family, and he isn’t having to pay rent for the time being.

“You know that there are so many people who are in a much worse spot than I am. I can’t complain,” he said. “I’ll be OK.”

Meanwhile, as he waits to receive his unemployment checks, Hermsen has been applying for jobs and has been on many virtual and in-person interviews with no offers.

“They’re not looking for a 56-year-old man right now,” he said. “They’re looking for somebody who’s going to be loyal and, you know, 20 years around.”

Even though he’s not paying rent, it hasn’t been an easy few months living off savings alone.

“Life still costs money, you know?”

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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