Delays, denials as Coronavirus fuels demand for unemployment benefits

Delays, denials as Coronavirus fuels demand for unemployment benefits
Dan Wong keeps calling, and keeps getting put on hold or disconnected as he tries to reach Washington’s Employment Security Department. (Katie McDowell/KIRO 7)

Emergency orders by Washington’s governor have shut down businesses across the state, leaving many laid-off workers looking for help. But many who applied for unemployment insurance faced an uphill battle getting applications approved and reviewed, or getting someone on the phone to help.

The head of the Employment Security Department, which administers unemployment benefits, says they’ve been swamped with more than 14,000 applicants between March 8 and March 14. And they expect that’s just the beginning.

Because of delays in the system, weekly unemployment claims are going to be paid retroactively to the date applicants lost their jobs – not just the date they were able to apply or get through on the phone.

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The Commissioner of the Employment Security Department says they're hiring more staff, and some technical glitches have been fixed, but they continue to be overwhelmed with calls.

If you can't get through on the phone, you can try scheduling a callback here.

If you’re still have trouble applying for Unemployment Insurance, email us at to report your concerns.

UPDATE: Washington’s Employment Security Department encourages anyone applying for unemployment benefits to apply to work with them in their customer service department. Apply here.

See the rest of our reporting on Washington’s unemployment crisis: