By John Stang for TCAJOB
Roughly 4,200 Washington businesses are owed workers unemployment insurance refunds by the state — and the computer glitches causing that delay probably won’t be fixed until June.
That’s what Lisa Marsh, deputy commissioner of the Washington Employment Security Division told the state Senate Commerce & Labor Committee in early January.
Marsh was testifying as a result of a late 2105 Seattle Times story about a Renton business owner’s 11-month struggle to get a $144 refund check from the ESD.
That business owner, Steve Allington, owner of Consortium of Paper, also testified.
Allington described a step-by-step trek across roughly 10 phone calls, during which he was essentially told that his paperwork was being worked on, and that computer software problems were slowing everything down.
“If you have that much trouble getting a refund from a department store, how often would you go back to that department store?” Allington said.
Marsh said there have been problems in making the ESD’s 2014 computer compatible with the state government’s overall accounting system.
“We’re aiming for June, and hoping for earlier,” Marsh said about getting the software problems fixed.
She also said several clerical and customer service errors were committed in Allington’s case, including lower—level staff members not informing their supervisors.
In addition, the 2014 computer installation was not adequately debugged when it was installed.
“I’d like to say it was a lack of staff, but a number of staff errors contributed to the situation. … We are very, very sorry about what happened to Mr. Allington,” she said.
The ESD’s staff numbers dropped from about 2,300 about 2008 to about 1,400 today.
“My concern is when you have an individual call you over and over again, you should respond to them,” said Sen. Steve Conway, D-Tacoma.
For perspective on the 4,200 delayed refunds, the state has roughly 224,000 businesses.
“Hopefully, we don’t have to come back next year for a follow-up,” said Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane and chairman of the Commerce & Labor Committee.
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