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Unemployment benefit request backlog cleared, state says

Aug. 3, 2020 Updated Mon., Aug. 3, 2020 at 10:55 p.m.

This photo from May 26, 2020, shows the headquarters for the Employment Security Department in Olympia.  (Ted S. Warren)
This photo from May 26, 2020, shows the headquarters for the Employment Security Department in Olympia. (Ted S. Warren)

OLYMPIA – Some workers who lost jobs because of the pandemic and have been waiting months for unemployment benefits will be getting checks soon, the state Employment Security Department said Monday.

A backlog has been cleared of some 81,500 pending requests for unemployment benefits that were delayed for more stringent identity checks or other problems with their applications, Suzi LeVine, department commissioner, said.

The pending requests covered a period from March through mid June, as the department was being hit with what Levine called a “tsunami” of legitimate claims created by the COVID-19 shutdowns and a significant attack by hackers filing false claims using stolen identification data.

Some $576 million in false claims were initially paid, but the department has recovered about $340 million of that, LeVine said.

The department, which previously sped up the verification process to get relief quickly to newly unemployed workers, put in new safeguards to verify identification. That delayed, sometimes by months, the time for approving some claims and getting payments to workers filing for unemployment benefits.

On Friday evening, the department met a goal of resolving all the claims from that period. It still has pending claims from the period after mid-June that also need identity issues or other questions resolved, but the time to accomplish that is down to about four weeks, LeVine said.

“It’s not mission accomplished. It’s milestone met,” she

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