Washington Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine said Thursday that over the past two weeks the agency has been able to clear identity issues on the claims of 100,000 people seeking unemployment benefits, and they continue to work on resolving other issues on the claims of those still awaiting payments.
Tens of thousands of unemployment benefit payments had been suspended last month as the state did additional verification following the revelation that the state had paid out as much as $650 million through tens of thousands of fraudulent claims made during the coronavirus pandemic.
To date, the state has recovered $350 million. 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 has targeted several other states during the coronavirus pandemic.
The number of new claims for unemployment benefits in Washington last week — 29,612 — increased 2 percent last week from the previous week.
More than 718,00 claims for benefits — with some of that number reflecting people who filed multiple claims — were filed for the week of June 14-20, up 3.3 percent from the previous week. More than $532 million was paid for 410,836 individual claims last week.
Nearly 1.2 million people in Washington have filed claims for unemployment since early March when the pandemic job losses began, and more than 875,000 people who filed initial claims have been paid. To date, the state has paid more than $6.5 billion in benefits, two-thirds of which is 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.
In Idaho, there were 4,285 new initial jobless claims during the week of June 14-20, which was an 18 percent increase over the previous week. Since the start of Idaho’s stay-home orders in March, there have been 157,143 initial claims and $522 million in benefits paid.
By age, 26 percent of Idaho’s claims were for people ages 25 to 34. People younger than 25 years old claimed 20 percent, people 35 to 44 years old represented 19 percent and workers 45 to 54 years old accounted for 16 percent. Men represented 52 percent of total claims, while women were 48 percent.