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Why you should wait to apply for unemployment until midweek

The ESD commissioner has hopeful news for jobless applicants: It’s working to not all apply for unemployment on Sunday.

SEATTLE — The agency that oversees unemployment in Washington state says waiting to apply until mid-week is helping alleviate strain on the online system.

Last week the Employment Security Department (ESD) urged applicants to not apply on Sunday and Monday unless they really needed the funds, because those are ESD’s busiest days, and the system was getting backlogged.

“We were able, through our collective efforts, to level out the traffic and ensure that the site remained responsive to the hundreds of thousands who filed their claims throughout the day yesterday,” ESD Commissioner Suzi LeVine said in an email Monday. “Given that yesterday will be the peak for the week, we know that the others who file their weekly claims today and beyond will have a similarly successful experience.”

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The state saw a wave of new claims last week after it upgraded its system on April 18 to accommodate federal CARES Act provisions. People who were previously ineligible for benefits, including independent contractors and those who worked fewer than 680 hours last year, now qualify for benefits. Applicants can also now receive an extra $600 per week in unemployment, which was another CARES Act provision.

A record number of people applied for unemployment April 19, the first day expanded benefits were available, overwhelming the system and preventing many people from applying.

After a massive spike in unemployment claims at the end of March, new claims steadily decreased over the first three weeks of April, although weekly claims are still among the highest on record. For the week ending April 18, ESD paid out 352,909 total unemployment claims.

However, ESD expects the new federal rules could change that trend

Data on last week’s new unemployment claims is expected to be released Thursday.

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If you apply for unemployment, ESD recommends following these tips:

  • You don’t have to apply on Sunday – it is not first-come-first served and there is no risk to funds running out. You can apply any time.
  • Payments are retroactive to your eligibility date. This means that, once you have successfully applied and backdated your start date, your first payment will be for all weeks for which you are eligible.
  • Weekly claims can be filed Sunday through Saturday every week.
  • E-services is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The busiest times tend to be in the morning. We recommend trying during off hours.

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