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Still a lack of transparency as Washingtonians wait on unemployment benefits

A sign at the headquarters for Washington state's Employment Security Department at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Tens of thousands of out-of-work Washingtonians have been fighting for appeal hearings after having their unemployment claims denied since the start of the pandemic. As that process has played out, there are still concerns over a continued lack of clarity from the state’s Employment Security Department.

35,000 could be waiting to get Employment Security appeal hearing

“Unfortunately, I don’t think that they’re being completely transparent,” Andra Kranzler, an attorney working with the Unemployment Law Project, told KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show. “… The claimants that I’m talking to, they’re just in awe that they can’t even get a phone call.”

Kranzler believes that ESD is more focused on touting the number of claims they’ve processed than the people who are still waiting on crucial unemployment money. In late August, the Unemployment Law project, a nonprofit that has been suing ESD, estimated that 35,000 people were waiting on an appeal hearing.

That number is down to roughly 2,000 people now, but for those people still left waiting — some for months — the process to receive jobless aid has been a trying one.

“I don’t believe that (ESD has) exercised their discretion in a manner that they would have expected if they found themselves in that situation,” Kranzler said. “I think the fact that they are glorifying that … they now have 2,000 appeals left … it just disregards those 2,000 households.”

“We need to start holding each other accountable and we need to start treating each other the way that we want to be treated, and it starts with our government,” she added. “The tone is set at the top.”

Unemployed Washingtonians still waiting for answers from ESD

For anyone still waiting on an appeal hearing, Kranzler has some advice.

“Go back through your e-services file — did you miss a letter? Did a letter just mysteriously appear there? Click on it,” she detailed. “Do you have a right to appeal? Request that right to appeal. Contact your legislator. Contact the Unemployment Law Project if you get a hearing.”

Kranzler also advises that if you request a hearing and don’t get a letter back with a hearing date within two or three weeks, call the Office of Administrative Hearings to ensure you haven’t missed anything.

“You just really don’t want to miss that notice, and just stay encouraged and utilize your local resources — we are in this together,” she said.

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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