Due to dramatically increased demand for services from the state Employment Security Department, Commissioner Suzi LeVine released a statement Monday ensuring Washington residents that they will have access to benefits even if they can’t immediately sign up. 

“What people need right now is reassurance of economic support during this crisis,” LeVine said in her statement. 

First, she said, some people are concerned they won’t get their benefits because they have not yet been able to complete the application process. 

“Benefits will be paid from the time people separated from their job or otherwise became eligible under the CARES Act, not from the time the application was submitted or approved,” according to the ESD’s news release. 

Also, she wrote, the federal CARES Act expands unemployment assistance to those not currently eligible who have been impacted by COVID-19, and provides an additional $600 per week to all unemployment recipients through July 31, 2020.

The ESD is working to make sure their online systems reflect those changes, and will be able to make retroactive payments. 

“With 1000 percent increase in call volumes over the past couple of weeks, and the highest volume of new claims since the Unemployment Insurance program began in the 1930s, we know it has been difficult for customers to get through on the phones and we are so sorry we have not been able to answer everyone’s calls or emails. We also know this is frustrating, and that it is making people anxious about getting their full benefit. We hope this information will provide some level of relief to the stress people are enduring at this time,” LeVine’s statement reads. 

“Additionally, we are improving the information on our website, updating the technology and hiring more staff to address the tremendous demand we are experiencing.”

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