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Washington unemployment center restricting calls to resolve 'complex' cases

If you have to call Washington's Employment Security Department about an unemployment claim, wait times could be long.

The Employment Security Department will restrict inbound calls to its claims center between May 13-19. 

Restricting calls will allow agents to focus on outbound calling to "resolve complex issues for customers who have been waiting the longest for their benefits," according to ESD. It will also free up time to process claims with "simpler issues."

During this time, ESD will accept calls from people who don't have internet access, people submitting weekly claims by phone and people with general questions that can't be answered online. 

ESD says at times it receives 100 calls per second, which leaves customers frustrated and staff unable to process claims that have been waiting the longest.

RELATED: Unemployment fraud, identity theft on the rise in Washington

People applying for unemployment benefits can:

  • Apply for benefits and submit weekly claims online
  • Use the automated phone system to apply by calling 1-800-318-6022
  • Call questions hotline at 1-833-572-8400 (wait times could be long)
  • Report fraud using the fraud hotline 1-800-246-9763

ESD Commissioner Suzi LeVine said the department hopes to clear 57,000 unemployment claims in adjudication by mid-June. Those claims must be processed by a trained adjudicator, because there is a discrepancy with the application.

RELATED: Not getting paid? You may need to file multiple unemployment claims

“Our goal with Operation 100% is to make sure unemployment benefits are delivered to all Washingtonians who were impacted by COVID-19, are eligible for and want to receive those benefits,” LeVine said. 

On May 7, there was a backlog of 265,000 initial claims. Of those, about 187,000 needed to sign up for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Another 57,000 claims were stuck in adjudication.

Between March 3 and 9, ESD paid out over $767 million for 538,635 individual claims.

Do you have a question or concern about money during the coronavirus pandemic? Email us at money@king5.com.