Jesse Jones

Thousands of unemployment appeals are sitting in limbo

Jacquelyn Copley’s unemployment benefits situation is becoming unbearable. She’s received $245 dollars in five months.

Try raising kids on that.

“I’m frustrated, and I feel like no one cares,” says Jacque.

Her story is one of miscommunication, and hundreds of calls made with just a few answered.

“I feel like I’m a small fish in a big pond, and something I’ve never needed before I’m not able to access, the only time I’ve ever needed it,” she says.

Jacque applied for unemployment after being advised to do so by her employer, the Federal Way School District. But she’d had a short-term job the previous year so the Employment Security Department needed more information.

“But they didn’t say what that information was,” says Jacque.

So she called the business to see if they had received any information on her case.

“They told me they had done dozens of applications for unemployment - approved them, but they never received one from me,” says Jacque.

In early July, the state denied her claim for not providing information and she immediately filed an appeal. A month later‚ ESD sent this note saying:

“Our goal is to resolve the issues on your claim within seven to 10 business days”

That wait went on for weeks.

And then, the calls:

“I waited on hold for an hour and a half for a representative and they came on the phone and they couldn’t tell me what information was needed. They couldn’t tell off their own website what information was needed,” says Jacque.

See, ESD sees appeals as “appeal tasks.” As of late September, of 103,000 tasks, no action was taken on 17 percent of tasks. Twenty one percent were sent to the Office of Administrative Hearings - the outside state agency where judges hear and make decisions on appeals. And 62 percent of those 103,000 tasks were “re-determined” - or given a second look by ESD.

That’s what happened in Jacque’s case: re-determination. And there’s no timeframe as to how quickly these cases will be handled.

Commissioner Suzi Levine, the head of ESD, says they have reassigned staff to handle these cases.

“We will first work to re-determine them and many of them will be re-determined to an “allow” - meaning we will allow those claims before they ever get sent to the Office of Administrative Hearings. And that will be a better experience so they can get their benefits,” says Commissioner Levine.

And just last week, Jacque had some good news.

“They said the money - since march to September - had been deposited into my account,” she said.

She’s happy for the ending to this story - but not happy that she had to go through all of this to get there.

“No, it was very stressful. I had a hard time sleeping, I was emotional, I was kind of short-tempered, and I’m sorry for anyone having to go through that,” said Jacque.

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