(The Center Square) — Washington is poised to clear its months-long backlog of unemployment claims on Friday as the deadline to extend the federal boost to unemployment benefits passes.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday during a press conference that the Washington Employment Security Department will most likely process the last of the state's unemployment claims initially filed in March.
"As you know we have been working diligently in making every single effort we could possibly imagine to resolve the claims,” Inslee said. "People in unemployment had been waiting, sometimes for months, it has been extremely frustrating.”
Many claims have been in a kind of legal limbo known as adjudication—an investigative process requiring additional verification for a claim.
The ESD reports that there were 10,795 people in adjudication since March 8 as of July 28.
Without a leg up from Congress, people in Washington relying on unemployment benefits will lose a huge chunk of their next payments.
Based on ESD data, the median unemployment benefit in Washington is $522.50, not including the extra $600 in weekly pandemic unemployment assistance created by the CARES Act. The aid expires Friday as negotiations in Congress to extend it floundered into the weekend.
Washington residents face staggering costs of living as the state grapples with a reported 9.8 percent unemployment rate.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported that the median gross rent in Seattle in 2018, the most recent date available, was $1,699.
A 2018 study from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy further found Washington to have the most regressive tax system in the country.
Washington workers in the bottom 20th percentile can pay up to six times more in taxes as their wealthier peers because of how the state’s high gas and sales taxes disproportionately hits low-income earners harder, according to the study.
A July 16 report from the U.S. Department of Labor found that more than 32 million Americans are receiving a type of unemployment benefit.
The ESD will be undergoing five announced audits from the state auditor after criminals using stolen identities took out nearly $650 million in fraudulent unemployment claims earlier this year.
Eleven auditors will be conducting the investigation and identifying weaknesses in the department’s security, delays in benefits payments, and the lack of responsiveness to people’s inquiries about their benefits.
The first reports of auditors’ findings are expected by December, the State Auditor’s Office confirmed in an email.