WA unemployment backlog cleared, processing times cut

Washington

All claims filed between March 8-June 18 have been processed

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Washington Employment Security Department has reached its “Operation 100%” goal of processing all unemployment claims that were filed by mid-June.

Confirming Governor Jay Inslee’s statement last week that the unemployment backlog would be “cleared within days,” the ESD announced the news on Monday morning. Operation 100% was an initiative to resolve the entire backlog of claims filed between March 8 and June 18 by the July 31 deadline. The total number of claims was listed at 81,508 — as the state saw an unprecedented number of cases filed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The ESD also reached the operation’s other goal of cutting down the processing times, which is now averaging at four weeks.

“Getting benefits to all eligible Washingtonians has been, and continues to be, our agency’s top priority in this crisis,” ESD Commissioner Suzi LeVine said. “As we turn the page on Operation 100%, more than 81,500 individuals who had applied by mid-June and not received payment now have resolution on their claims.”

Now that the Operation 100% project is complete, there are still another 30,000 claims in Washington state that need to be worked on. Officials have not set a time frame for when they’ll get through those, but a new ESD data dashboard launched on Monday allows the public to track their progress.

“There are still those who have applied since mid-June or had issues set on their weekly claims and need resolution. We will leverage the progress made and lessons learned in Operation 100% to help those individuals and resolve all claims much faster moving forward.”

So far, the state has paid about $8.8 billion in benefits to more than 966,000 people.

The big question moving forward is: what happens now that the extra $600 a week in federal unemployment aid has expired? Congress is still debating the next virus aid package, but some programs would be easier to implement than others.

“If it’s 70% of an individual’s wage, to retool our system, it’s like rolling out a new benefit, it’s like a whole new system,” explained LeVine. “And it would take us an estimated four to five months to deliver, so the earliest would be mid-November that we could deploy that specific character within that kind of compensation.”

Like Oregon, Washington officials said a flat dollar amount would be the easiest to implement.

Continuing Coverage: Coronavirus

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