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Washington state calls in the National Guard to help with unemployment claims

Another 1.5 million Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week on a seasonally adjusted basis, the Department of Labor reported.

Posted: Jun 11, 2020 8:42 AM
Updated: Jun 12, 2020 3:15 PM


Washington state is summoning the National Guard to battle its backlog of unemployment claims.

The state is still struggling to process tens of thousands of unemployment applications amid a massive fraud attack, as well as a surge in filings triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Washington flagged 190,000 claims in mid-May as possible 'imposter fraud,' where criminals using stolen personal information sign up for benefits. The state unemployment agency, which temporarily paused payments while it validated all claims, is giving special attention to these suspect applications.

About 50 National Guard members will arrive next week and undergo training, which should take one or two days, said Nick Demerice, a spokesman for the state's Employment Security Department. They will focus on verifying the identity of the 42,000 residents who fell into the suspect batch but were receiving benefits before mid-May.

Another 36,000 applications have other issues that have to be addressed, Suzi LeVine, the agency's commissioner, said at a news briefing Thursday. The rest have been resolved.

Some 100 National Guard members are expected to work with the agency, which is still determining the details of their deployment.

Washington, one of several states besieged by fraud, has recovered about $337 million of the up to $650 million lost to the attack. The state auditor announced earlier this week that her office will examine the factors that led to delayed and improper payments, as well as potential weaknesses in the unemployment agency's computer systems.

Nearly 1.2 million individuals have filed claims in Washington since early March, and more than 844,000 people have been paid a total of more than $5.4 billion in benefits.

The number of initial claims filed each week is on the decline, but about 35,000 who applied by May 1 have yet to be approved. The agency hopes to have their claims resolved by the end of the month, two weeks later than originally planned, LeVine said.

Oregon, whose unemployment director resigned last month at the governor's request, is also receiving assistance from National Guard members, who have volunteered to call applicants waiting to hear the status of their benefits.

More than 44 million people nationwide have filed for initial unemployment benefits since mid-March, when states issued stay-at-home orders and forced non-essential businesses to close to slow the spread of coronavirus.

In addition, nearly 3 million people have filed first-time claims over the three weeks ending in early June under the pandemic unemployment assistance program, which was created by Congress to assist those not eligible for traditional jobless benefits. More than 9.7 million were claiming benefits under the pandemic program in the week ending May 23.

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3074812

Reported Deaths: 35060
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles103873814416
San Bernardino2569141560
Riverside2510002676
San Diego2185552174
Orange2165092508
Santa Clara949051129
Kern87240572
Fresno83200968
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Alameda68649788
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San Joaquin58843788
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Tulare42186515
Monterey36464255
San Mateo32887309
San Francisco29502266
Solano25983107
Santa Barbara25405243
Imperial25333474
Merced24570316
Sonoma24184242
Kings19588148
Placer17490184
San Luis Obispo16056140
Madera13528151
Santa Cruz12461113
Marin11732159
Yolo10789138
Shasta9750123
Butte9528128
El Dorado788649
Sutter782879
Napa767244
Lassen519916
San Benito500346
Yuba499627
Tehama433244
Tuolumne340340
Nevada323474
Mendocino319232
Amador302431
Lake262531
Humboldt242725
Glenn194820
Colusa17969
Calaveras162123
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Mono11244
Inyo98329
Del Norte8672
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