State’s unemployment system overwhelmed as more expected to file claims

WASHINGTON — In the days ahead, more people are expected to file weekly unemployment claims in Washington State than at any other time.

Up until now, 2008 was the benchmark for a record number of people filing for unemployment in Washington.

>>State asks only those in dire need file for unemployment early next week

Those numbers, though, were no match for coronavirus, and now triple the number of people are filing for employment than in 2008.

It’s led to a clogged, delayed unemployment system.

“There is no end in the circle of trying to get in contact with someone,” said Kayla Martinez, a laid-off food server.

“It’s very frustrating, and I know there’s other people in my boat,” added Lesa Medley, a furloughed administrative assistant.

Martinez and Medley have different careers from one another, yet this month, their lives have been very similar.

“I try to send a couple messages, try to get into contact with somebody, it usually doesn’t work, I get frustrated and hang up,” admitted Martinez.

“I started (calling the unemployment line) at 6:59 exactly,” said Medley, who explained that the phone line opens at 7:00 a.m.. “At that point it was telling me it already had too many phone calls and I couldn’t get through.”

In the unemployment process, Martinez and Medley say each day is the same.

They spend hour upon hour on the phone, desperate for someone to pick up.

“You log onto the website and they tell you to call a number. And you call a number, which isn’t working, so you call a second number which directs you to the website,” Martinez told KIRO 7 News.

“I’m sure (unemployment call center workers) are overwhelmed, and I completely understand that, but it gets to a point where we’re overwhelmed too,” Medley said.

This upcoming week nearly one million people in Washington State are expected to file claims for unemployment.

State workers admit they’re dealing with a system that’s been flooded with requests.

They tell KIRO 7 those most desperate should file their weekly claim on Sunday or Monday.

Yet, those who are struggling, said they expect more frustration ahead.

“It’s hard to keep your emotions in check when you’re dealing with your livelihood,” said Martinez.