A sign at the headquarters for Washington state’s Employment Security Department at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Jennifer Moore initially saw her role as a customer intake specialist at Employment Security as a kind of calling. She has a background in social work, and wanted a job that would let her make a difference in people’s lives during a crisis.
Additionally, Moore herself had been through the state’s unemployment system before, and thought her own experience would help her to advise people.
But what she found after her arrival last summer was a system that actively tried not to help people.
“Even though it’s a social insurance program that was set up for when times go bad, it’s really, really predicated on denying people,” she said.
Moore eventually quit her job because she felt the department’s values did not match her own.
For the better part of a year, KIRO Radio has heard from people waiting months on ESD for their benefits, including some who are still waiting on funds from last spring. Claimants have reported spending weeks on end calling in without reaching a person, or finally getting through, only to find that the person they were speaking with could neither answer their question nor connect them with someone who could.
In the meantime, people have been forced to sell personal possessions to get by financially.
At last count in early January, the backlog had spiked at nearly 40,000 people waiting on unemployment benefits. After that point, the portion of the ESD dashboard that normally lists that queue every week was taken down for maintenance.
During his most recent press conference, Governor Inslee promised that ESD was making changes to chip away at that backlog.
“The department is using new technology, training new people, building new capacity, and we’re going to continue in that effort,” he said.
The passage of an unemployment bill by the Legislature last week did not ease the concerns of many workers. As workers’ rights group Working Washington pointed out, the bill does not require ESD to pay workers or respond to their inquiries any faster.
A look at the inside of Employment Security
Moore described ESD as a sort of assembly line, with those on specialized phone lines acting as cogs in a giant machine.
She and her team started on the main customer service line, where they tackled a variety of issues for people. But when they were moved to the Lost Wages Assistance line, they could only certify one yes or no question related to that topic — despite…
Go to the news source: WA Employment Security Department whistleblower says she was told not to help pe…