State says it will meet deadline for some workers’ unemployment benefits, others still waiting

VIDEO: Backlog of unemployment claims expected to be cleared Friday

WASHINGTON — The Employment Security Department said Friday that it will meet its deadline that night of clearing 10,795 people who were waiting for unemployment benefits as of the beginning of this week.

While some people have been posting online that their claims have finally been marked paid, others are complaining that they are still waiting.

“One day I called 22 times,” Aja Agustiniano said of her attempts to contact the ESD. “One day I called 30 times.”

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Agustiniano was furloughed from her job at the end of March. She’s had her hands full with her six-week-old daughter Viviana, but she’s also been working hard to get her unemployment benefits.

“It says everything’s approved,” she said of her account. But Agustiniano has received only one payment.

“It’s a random week in April,” she said. “If I messed up on something, that’s fine, I’ll fix it. But I haven’t been able to get in touch with anyone to figure out what I’m doing wrong or if I’m doing something wrong.”

Loana Betea-Mangune lost her restaurant job in March. Her situation may be held up because of her green card.

“We don’t really know how rent is going to go, or bills or food,” she said. “It’s very stressful. It’s incredibly scary. I try not to think too much about what’s going to happen.”

Zach Narkin filed for benefits after his job in the travel industry was converted into a part-time position in May.

“[The ESD system] encouraged me to file weekly claims, which I’ve done every week, but each time, they say they’re invalid,” he said.

Narkin said he was self-employed in the previous year and needed to upload tax returns. But he’s heard nothing since and wants to speak with someone on the phone to figure out if there’s a problem, or if they need anything else from him. He was recently on the phone with ESD for two and a half hours.

“The guy had me on the whole time and said he was trying to get his supervisor to get everything fixed with my benefits but the call disconnected,” Narkin said. “He never called me back after that.”

All three heard Gov. Jay Inslee’s promise to people on Thursday.

“The department intends to finish clearing the backlog of people whose claims were filed between March and June by the end of the day tomorrow,” Inslee said.

It is a very specific group of people: those who filed for unemployment between March 8 and June 18, who haven’t received any payments at all; and those who are still waiting for the ESD to resolve their claims — that is, if they don’t have to send in any more information or take any other actions.

People who filed their claims after June 18 are also waiting.

Susan Wallace was notified in May that her identity was used by a criminal to steal unemployment benefits. She reported it and said she received notice that the investigation was completed on June 23. That happened to be around the same time she needed to file for benefits due to a one-week furlough through the county. But, she said, she couldn’t file her own claim through her account.

“It says they are unable to verify my identity and to call the Office of Special Investigations which, — you get the recording, we are experiencing a high volume of calls,” she said.