OLYMPIA – Acting Employment Security Department Commissioner Cami Feek will officially take over the department, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday.
Feek took over in February after former commissioner Suzi LeVine took a job in the Biden administration. Inslee said Feek is “an obvious choice for this position.”
Feek served as acting commissioner in 2018 and deputy commissioner and chief operating officer for the past three years. She was the first program director for the newly developed Paid Family and Medical Leave program.
“Her leadership through the COVID pandemic and strong advocacy on behalf of ESD employees, claimants, and job-seekers has further demonstrated her ability to move ESD into a new phase,” Inslee said in prepared remarks.
Feek takes over the department after a year plagued by a large fraudulent attack and a historic number of claims leading to backlogs and delays in payment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Feek called the COVID-19 pandemic “the greatest unemployment crisis since the Great Depression.”
She said the department is already hiring more people and improving its technology to avoid delays like what many faced during the beginning of the pandemic.
Former commissioner LeVine faced criticism in her role in Washington state after the department has spent the last year rebounding from a fraud attack that likely left a more than $647 million loss. Abidemi Rufai, of Lekki, Nigeria, was arrested last month after officials say he used the identities of more than 100 Washington residents to steal more than $350,000 from the department.
Feek said Wednesday there is not one single person or system to point to as to why the department was struck by fraud.
“We’re all accountable,” Feek said. “I’m accountable to that.”
Inslee called the fraud “a systemic problem in an unprecedented pandemic.”
She added she is committed to applying all the department has learned over the last year to “increase equitable access to our many services and improve the experience for our customers.”
“There is no doubt that it has been a difficult time for all of us, and I go into this role with my eyes wide open,” Feek said.
Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.
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