There is, of course, a lot of work to do to continue this positive trend and ensure an equitable recovery for workers and businesses hardest hit by this economic crisis. This will take a joint effort by agencies, industry and leaders throughout Washington. In this update, I’ll highlight a couple important things we are tracking here at ESD around recovery, and an update on a topic you’ve likely heard about in your offices:
- Job search requirement reinstatement update.
- Unemployment trust fund forecast.
- Update about the “potential new claim” issue.
We also continue implementation of the legislative changes passed this session, as well as changes coming from the U.S. Department of Labor. I’ll provide more details on that in my future updates.
As always, thank you for your partnership and collaboration.
Commissioner, Employment Security Department
Job search requirement is coming back
You may have heard by now that the job search requirement to maintain eligibility for unemployment insurance is coming back the week of July 4.
What this means for customers:
- Nearly all claimants will be required to look for a job and complete job search activities in order to remain eligible for unemployment benefits.
- Claimants must start job search activities the week of July 4 – July 10. Claimants will report activities on their weekly claims starting the week of July 11.
- Approved job search activities, FAQs and info is on our website on the job search requirements page.
We have already started extensive outreach to claimants to prepare them for this requirement to go back into effect, and we will continue that outreach after it is in place. This includes numerous notices to their unemployment account, emails and mailed notices and robocalls to those who do not have internet access.
As I mentioned in my last update, while WorkSource offices never stopped serving Washingtonians, ESD staff are already returning to WorkSource centers to resume in-person services. Our staff in the majority of the WorkSource centers across the state will resume some in-person services by early July. We are still encouraging those customers who can continue virtual appointments to do so. This helps ensure those across the digital divide and the most vulnerable populations can be seen in-person. The pages for each location will be kept up to date with how best to connect with a local WorkSource center.
Good news on the UI trust fund
The better-than-expected economic recovery in Washington has resulted in a more optimistic unemployment insurance (UI) trust fund forecast than we thought in November! According to our labor market team, the UI trust fund is projected to maintain solvency through 2021. We previously believed we might need a loan or an advance. While we still have a lot of work to do on our recovery and re-employment efforts, this improved outlook for the trust fund is good news all around!
Unemployment trust fund balance
As of June 20, 2021: $1,833,401,226.16
Potential new claim update
I know many of your offices have received questions about the potential new claim issue: an alert we sent asking certain claimants to fill out a “new” claim. Please take a look at this one pager to learn more about what it is and why it happens.Unfortunately, we are required by the federal government to do this to ensure claimants are receiving benefits from the correct program.
As I mentioned in previous messages, we knew it was going to be difficult for our customers. Last time we did this in November, it was confusing and resulted in sometimes very large overpayment notices to those that did not respond.
We learned a lot from last time, and have changed communications and strategies to give customers every opportunity to avoid unnecessary overpayment notices.
Some key things we’re doing to help customers:
- Giving customers twice as much time to respond to the alert compared to the last time.
- Waiving overpayments wherever we possibly can.
- Reaching out numerous times and through multiple channels to customers.
- Calling those with the biggest overpayment notices to help them take next steps.
As of today, we have a 76% percent response rate out of about 105,000 claimants, which is promising. We continue to see that number climb as we reach out to customers who have not responded to the many messages we’ve sent previously. Now that we’re passed the deadlines, we set up a special process to help customers resolve issues before we must send benefit denials and overpayment notices.
The most important thing for customers to do is to read the alerts and follow the instructions as soon as possible.
As always, thank you so much for your partnership as we continue to navigate the complexities of this pandemic.
The Latest: Unemployment benefits & claims