Spokane man hasn’t received unemployment benefits for six weeks, called 650 times

SPOKANE, Wash. — Unemployment numbers in Washington state continue to skyrocket. In the U.S., about 30.3 million people have filed for unemployment benefits in the past six weeks.

In the past week, nearly 500,000 people in Washington state applied new initial claims, according to the Employment Security Department. Since March 7, they’ve paid out $1.5 billion in claims. One Spokane man hasn’t received any of that money.

“I followed the online process, went through all the steps and everything and just made sure I filled out everything,” said Al Batson, who filed for unemployment on March 22. “Everything’s always been filled out completely. I’ve filled out every one of my weekly claims on Sunday, just like they ask.”

He was laid off before the pandemic and was given two job offers two days before the shutdown. When it hit, the job offers were rescinded.

After he filed for unemployment, he started to check on the status of his application and continued to file weekly claims.

“If you look at the claims status, everything just says pending and zeros just straight across the board,” he said. “I haven’t been denied at all. It’s just completely just said pending the entire time.”

About two weeks ago, Batson started to call every day. Since then, he’s called 650 times. No one has answered.

“I wake up a 7:00 every morning, start dialing the unemployment number,” he said. “Mid-morning-ish I go ahead and I send a message again, just using their message portal.”

According to recent numbers, initial claims filed increased in Spokane County from 5,069 to 7,794 from the week before.

Batson tried to get ahold of the department through the Family and Medical Leave department. He was on hold for more than two hours.

“I got through to somebody who told me they couldn’t help me because I called the wrong department, and I’m like, ‘Well, I know I called the wrong department,” he said, “I’m just trying to find an answer. I’m just trying to talk to somebody.”

His questions have still gone unanswered.

“I don’t know if I have a mistake on my paperwork or anything because I can’t get through to anybody,” he explained. “I’ve scoured the internet for every backdoor into the ESD department that there is and haven’t been able to find one.”

4 News Now reached out to the Employment Security Department for comment, but have yet to hear back. The commissioner did release a statement today and said in part:

“While the team at the Employment Security Department has helped hundreds of thousands of people get unemployment benefits since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, we know that there are still many who are awaiting their payments. It is beyond frustrating for these individuals and we will continue to work night and day until everyone receives their benefits.

“Unfortunately, resolving these issues takes both people and time. Claims may be pending for a number of reasons, the most common of which is a discrepancy between the information the employee entered when applying for unemployment, and the information reported to us by their employer. In order to make sure the customer is eligible for benefits, and to ensure due process for both the employee and employer, these cases need to be adjudicated.

Batson said anxiety is high and a little bit of panic is setting in.

“There’s got to be a better way,” he said. “There’s got to be a way to get through this faster, more efficiently and get this problem solved.”

He explained that he’s having a tough time staying optimistic, but is thankful to have a support system.

“I just want answers,” Batson said. “I just want somebody to respond to me. I just want somebody to talk to me.”

READ: Idaho Department of Labor has paid out nearly $45 million in benefits to unemployed workers

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