50 National Guard members start work on jobless aid backlog

  • By Rachel La Corte The Associated Press
  • Tuesday, June 23, 2020 1:30am
  • NewsCoronavirus

By Rachel La Corte

The Associated Press

OLYMPIA — Fifty members of the National Guard are helping to clear a backlog of state unemployment benefit claims and an additional 50 soldiers will join them in the coming weeks as the state works to resolve identify verification issues in the wake of fraudulent claims paid out during the coronavirus pandemic.

Training began Thursday for the National Guard members. Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine said it would take up to a day and a half for the Guard members to be trained, and that they would join the more than 400 staffers from her agency who are currently working on ID verification work.

“They will be evaluating identifications to help legitimate claimants get the benefits they so desperately need and to stop the criminals from getting Washington taxpayer dollars,” she said at a news conference.

The issue of enhanced identification verification has come to the forefront since the state announced in May that it paid out up to $650 million through tens of thousands of fraudulent claims. As of this week, the state has recovered $350 million, LeVine said.

A West African fraud ring using identities stolen in prior data breaches, such as the massive 2017 Equifax breach, is believed to be behind the fraud, which targeted about a dozen states, according to California cybersecurity firm Agari.

After the discovery, the state responded by suspending some unemployment benefit payments to do additional verification.

LeVine expected to see the cases of 42,000 people who were already receiving payments but had their payments paused May 15 to be resolved by Friday. An additional 81,000 people have submitted claims between March and June but have not been paid due to one or more issues in their accounts, she said.

“We do expect to address the backlog and to be able to ensure that those who had payments pause resume, and those who have been waiting for some time get resolved,” she said.

Nearly 1.2 million people have filed claims for unemployment since early March, when the pandemic job losses began, and more than 856,000 people who filed initial claims have been paid.

To date, the state has paid more than $5.4 billion in benefits, including federal money that is providing the unemployed with an additional $600 a week on top of the state’s weekly maximum benefit of up to $790 per week.

The number of new claims for unemployment benefits in Washington dropped to just over 29,000 the week of June 8.

LeVine said she believed the drop is in part because of the ongoing anti-fraud efforts and because the economy is restarting under the state’s four-stage reopening plan that is bringing people back to work.

More than 695,000 claims for benefits — with some of that number reflecting people who filed multiple claims — were filed for the week of June 7-13, down more than 34,000 from the previous week. More than $454 million was paid for 399,879 individual claims the week of June 8.

More in News

Ridge ski season opens Saturday

Finally, enough snow falls for winter sports

A gate and concrete barricades block the north end of Towne Road as it reaches the new Dungeness River levee on Tuesday northwest of Sequim. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Residents provide Towne Road feedback

More than 30 express opinions on project

Point Hudson Marina slated to be open today

Port of Port Townsend plans grand opening ceremony on April 24

Firefighters extinguished a fire in an RV near Olympic Medical Center on Wednesday in Port Angeles. No one was injured. (Port Angeles Fire Department)
No one injured in RV fire

No one was injured following an RV fire at… Continue reading

tsr
Mobile Healing Clinic to start in Clallam Bay on Monday

RV offers similar MAT services as Sequim facility

Finalists for the 2023 Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber Commerce’s Citizen of the Year award include, front row, from left, Carol Labbe and Pauline Olsen. Not pictured is the award recipient, Renne Emiko Brock, who was unable to attend the chamber’s annual awards luncheon on Tuesday. Pictured with Labbe and Olsen are, back row, from left, chamber President Eran Kennedy, chamber Executive Director Beth Pratt and Lorie Fazio, Citizen of the Year committee chair. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
Art advocate Brock named Sequim Citizen of Year

Labbe, Olsen finalists for town’s top civic award

Lena Curtis guides a snow sled with her two children, Lucien Williams, 4 1/2, and Millie, 2, all from Port Townsend, down a snow hill at Port Townsend High School on Tuesday. An overnight storm passed through but not before depositing about 3 inches of soft powder, which melted rapidly as the day warmed. The blast of snowfall was largely confined to the area around Port Townsend and Port Hadlock overnight into Tuesday morning on the North Olympic Peninsula. Another weather system was coming in on Tuesday afternoon and is expected to drop rain in the lowlands and snow in the mountains on Wednesday and early Thursday, according to meteorologist Jacob DeFlitch with the National Weather Service in Seattle. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)
Downhill sledding

Lena Curtis guides a snow sled with her two children, Lucien Williams,… Continue reading

waddell
Clallam PUD seeks replacement for Waddell

Applicants for the Clallam County Public Utility District commissioner seat… Continue reading

Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe council leaders celebrate the opening of the tribe’s new library at its Blyn campus on Saturday. Pictured, from left, are treasurer Theresa Lehman, vice chair Loni Grinnell-Greninger, chair/CEO Ron Allen and secretary Rochelle Blankenship. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe celebrates library opening

Chairman/CEO: New facility is ‘second to none’