Can’t get through to apply for unemployment? State says benefits will be retroactive

Washington State Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine said Monday that those Washingtonians who have not yet been able to get through to apply for unemployment assistance will be paid retroactively from the time they lost their job —  not from the time the application went through.

“What people need right now is reassurance of economic support during this crisis,” LeVine said in a statement. “There are two factors causing people concern that I want to address right away:

  • People are concerned that they won’t be paid if they can’t get through: “We are experiencing unprecedented demand and, while hundreds of thousands have successfully filed new claims related to the COVID crisis, many others have not yet been able to complete their application process,” she said. “Benefits will be paid from the time people separated from their job or otherwise became eligible under the CARES Act, not from the time the application was submitted or approved.”
  • People are concerned that they will miss out on the new federal CARES Act benefits during the time it takes to get the system updated: “The federal CARES Act expands unemployment assistance to those not currently eligible who have been impacted by COVID-19, and provides an additional $600 per week to all unemployment recipients through July 31, 2020,” she said, adding her department is “working hard to have our systems updated to reflect these changes by mid-April. We will then be able to make retroactive payments for both the weekly benefit amount owed as well as the additional $600 per week,” she said.

“With 1,000% increase in call volumes over the past couple of weeks, and the highest volume of new claims since the Unemployment Insurance program began in the 1930s, we know it has been difficult for customers to get through on the phones and we are so sorry we have not been able to answer everyone’s calls or emails,” LeVine said. “We also know this is frustrating, and that it is making people anxious about getting their full benefit. We hope this information will provide some level of relief to the stress people are enduring at this time.”

LeVine said the department is also improving the information on its website as well as updating the technology and hiring more staff “to address the tremendous demand we are experiencing.

She stressed that three actions that everyone can take right away:

“Fundamentally, if you were eligible for unemployment before the federal legislation passed, please apply as soon as you can – taking care to read the information on the website beforehand and double-checking your information before submitting your application,” she said. “If you were not eligible for unemployment before the CARES Act passed –including those that are self-employed, workers with fewer than 680 hours and others — we are asking you to wait to apply for unemployment because our system is not set up to accept your application.

“Again, the best thing people can do to stay up-to-date is sign up for ESD’s COVID-19 action alerts. We will use this channel, as well as our social media channels, to provide regular updates as this situation quickly evolves.”

    1. The state does say that they will provide benefits retroactively to anyone who can’t get through right away.

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