Unemployed workers who uploaded verification documents wait longer for payments

Crackdown on unemployment fraud causing problems for many

WASHINGTON — Many unemployed workers who were prompted to upload documents over the weekend to verify their identities are reporting that their weekly payments have been delayed longer than expected, something the Employment Security Department says will happen as those cases are more closely reviewed.

Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine said on Thursday that, moving forward, everyone’s weekly payments would be held, or “paused,” for fraud checks.

>>State says it has ‘zeroed in’ on stopping fraudulent unemployment claims

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“So we typically would tell people with direct deposit, you’ll get your money within 24 to 48 hours,” she said. “Now, that expectation setting will be 48 to 72 hours.”

But for people who had to upload extra documents, ESD spokesperson Nick Demerice said Friday the wait could be longer.

“As we have set these issues and flagged these accounts, there are clearly valid claims that have been hung up in this,” he said. “And we are working through those to get those cleared as fast as possible. Some of it will be done through some automation and some of it will be done manually."

Demerice said although cases are being cleared daily, the department does not have a date or even timeline for when some of the payments will be released.

The clarification comes as the department cracks down on scammers who, LeVine said, have stolen tens of thousands of Washingtonians’ identities in order to steal hundreds of millions of dollars.

On Friday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that it had worked with a financial institution and federal law enforcement to prevent $120 million from being paid to scammers from the ESD.

While acknowledging that the fraud prevention is essential, some workers waiting for their payments are frustrated at the delay in their weekly payment, and the uncertainty of when it will be released.

Over the weekend, Kat Knable had to verify her identity by uploading documents, but as of Friday morning, her payment was still pending.

“My payments come in Monday morning and then this last week — no payments,” she said.

It is stressful for Knable, a single mother of three. But when KIRO 7 informed her of ESD’s clarification on payment delays, she was not surprised.

“You know, it’s just another one. We heard two days. We heard three days,” she said, referring to the initial timelines for the pause for everyone’s payments. “We heard 72 hours. Whatever the ESD is going to say, it’s probably going to change. And unfortunately in my journey with them, that’s what I’ve learned. I can’t say I’m shocked. I really hope that they understand that these are people—these are human beings.”

There are also thousands of people who have been waiting weeks in adjudication so they can receive any payment at all.

The ESD said it aims to get those claims processed by mid-June, but if applicants were required to upload verification documents that could affect their cases as well.