ESD sued to release unemployment benefits

Jun 11, 2020
Written by wpengine

Attorneys for the nonprofit Unemployment Law Project have petitioned the state Supreme Court to order the Employment Security Department to release withheld benefit payments to qualified applicants.

ESD has withheld payments several weeks in some cases as part of its investigation of a multimillion-dollar international scandal of fraudulent claims unwittingly paid by Washington State.

In a recent webinar, ESD reported it had recovered $333 million in fraudulent claims after estimating its losses could be up to $650 million. It is scheduled to issue another update today on fraud recovery efforts. The retail industry is among those hardest hit by layoffs from store closures ordered to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The petition maintains that ESD lacks authority to withhold payments to legitimate claimants while it investigates a massive fraud.

Meanwhile, the volume of statewide unemployment claims has fallen significantly since the week of May 10, the department reports.

The department explained the trend by noting the gradual reopening of the state economy resulting in many workers returning to jobs and its fraud prevention efforts.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, ESD has received an unprecedented volume of nearly two million initial claims and paid out nearly $5 billion in benefits. Read more for a breakdown by the numbers including claims by industry, occupation and location.