MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Head of WA unemployment office will assume expanded role at US Department of Labor

Jan 29, 2021, 11:11 AM | Updated: 12:04 pm

Inslee, LeVine, inslee unemployment, job...

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

(ESD, Facebook)

Last week, it was revealed that Suzi LeVine, the head of Washington state’s unemployment office, would be leaving for a job with the Biden administration. The details of that role came to light Friday, which will see her leading a sub-agency that assists states with unemployment benefits.

Head of WA unemployment office leaving to join Biden administration

According to a report from Bloomberg Law, LeVine will be the “interim political head” for the federal Employment and Training Administration (ETA), which operates under the U.S. Labor Department.

Her new role heading up the ETA will be a temporary posting, and it’s unclear whether she is among the names being considered to fill the job on a more permanent basis. The ETA boasts an annual budget of $9 billion, and according to Bloomberg, will have “immense authority” in executing President Biden’s labor recovery plan.

LeVine was appointed to head the state’s Employment Security Department in 2018 by Gov. Inslee, and confirmed by the state Senate in the following legislative session. Her tenure was marked by unprecedented unemployment because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Audit finds internal controls at ESD weren’t strong enough to prevent fraud

She has faced significant criticism over the course of the pandemic, both for ESD being defrauded to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars last spring, and for frequently delayed payments to those applying for jobless benefits. In December 2020, ESD continued to catch flack after over 26,000 people received notices giving them just five days to pay back unemployment benefits that they’d already received.

In that same month, the state Auditor’s Office detailed issues during its audits of LeVine’s department, putting the blame squarely on ESD for failing to adequately cooperate.

LeVine has yet to issue a statement on her new posting as the interim chief for the ETA.

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Head of WA unemployment office will assume expanded role at US Department of Labor