No timeline for unemployed workers’ identities to be verified as state recovers stolen $300M

Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine revealed Thursday that the state had clawed back $300 million in stolen money from scammers as the fraud crackdown holds up some people's payments, with no end in sight.

To help prevent more millions in fraudulent payments and recover millions more of stolen money, the ESD required many people to upload identity-related documents. This resulted in those payments being delayed until people’s identities can be verified.

"What is the timeline for people to get verified after they've uploaded documents so that they can get paid?" KIRO 7 reporter Linzi Sheldon asked.

"Our investigators are working very hard to do that exercise and at the same time prevent additional fraud," LeVine said. "This takes a little more time unfortunately and so I don't have an estimate of how long it will be."

LeVine later said they are "working to come up with a timeline."

"But we are also working to bulk clear as much as we can of those individuals that are legitimate claimants," she said.

LeVine said she doesn't know how many people may be stuck in this verification limbo but said Wednesday night, the state cleared payments for 55,000 people "impacted by the department's efforts to reduce fraud."

Auburn man Spencer D’Avis says he isn’t one of them.

"I have no money," he said, "and they're making excuses."

He was put on standby from his marketing job and was receiving unemployment benefits until he was prompted by ESD’s e-services to upload some documents several weeks ago.

"I submitted my birth certificate, my social security card, my passport, my ID," he said. "I wrote an explanation. That should really kind of say, 'Hey, he's not a fraudster!'"

"I feel very helpless," Nadina Khalil, a master esthetician and sugarist out of Lynnwood, said.

She is prepared with all the necessary PPE to reopen, but until that's allowed by the state, she needs her payments from the ESD. She, too, says after she responded to a prompt to upload identity-related documents, her payments were held up.

“There’s loans out there and stuff, but I’ve been holding out,” she said. “Because it’s one thing to be closed and not making money. But it’s another thing to put myself in debt over this — in extreme debt.”

Spencer D'Avis said he's down to the last six dollars in his savings account and has been told he just needs to wait.

"Once you get through to ESD and you wait for an hour and they tell you, 'I'm not going to open your case, I'm not going to transfer you, goodbye,' —-- do you know how heartbreaking that is?" he asked.

D’Avis said his boyfriend Hunter is one of the unfortunate many, yet to receive any unemployment payments at all since filing.

The state also revealed that as of Tuesday, there were 44,693 people in that same boat and under adjudication, with 96 people waiting 11 weeks.

LeVine said the ESD remains “on track” with its goal of mid-June for getting payments to everyone who was in adjudication as of May 1.