The state Employment Security Department launched new online services for unemployment claimants and employers Jan. 3 — but the website is experiencing slower than anticipated response times due to high call volumes and the start-up of the system.
Customers made nearly 750,000 calls to claims center staff on the first business day of the new year.
The department’s unemployment benefit claims centers have processed 37,000 claims as of Jan. 3. For context, the agency served 60,000 unemployment claimants in November.
“We apologize and we are working as hard as we can around the clock to resolve these issues. Thank you so much for your patience,” the agency said in a release.
The new “eservices” website is part of an upgrade to the agency’s unemployment benefits computer system. The site provides additional security and new self-service options for claimants and employers. It also provides a more user-friendly interface for ESD staff.
New claimants can apply for unemployment later this week with no delay in benefit payments because state law requires them to wait a week before they can file a claim for their first payment anyway.
Weekly benefit payments filed this week are scheduled to be processed this week. Claims center staff are processing those claims as quickly as they can, officials say.
These system issues will not hurt claimants’ eligibility for benefits.
Customers needing assistance signing into the new system should visit esd.wa.gov/newsroom/alerts/benefits-registration.
They also can call 855-682-0785 but there are a limited number of agents.
Claimants will need to call the Unemployment Claims Center at 800-318-6022 to reset their PINs to use the automated phone services.
Unemployment claimants previously enjoyed some self-service capability, but they will now be able to do all of the following online:
Unemployment benefits will also now be available via debit card for those wishing to eliminate paper checks.
Employers also will be able to access online services they did not have previously.
“We’re excited to offer this new technology to serve our customers, but we also know change brings challenges — and we’re prepared to help,” said Commissioner Dale Peinecke in a statement.
ESD has created user guides and videos to help claimants sign in to the secure system, apply for benefits online and submit weekly claims online. People can find these resources on the Unemployment Benefits pages as well as in the video library.
ESD’s Unemployment Claims Center has also added a new customer service team to help if people have trouble signing into the new system. People who need help signing in can call: 855-682-0785.
UI claimants will be able to access assistance from the claims centers by telephone at 800-318-6022. People should expect longer than usual hold times and even some difficulty getting through because winter is the peak season for unemployment. The state also expected added pressure on the phone system with the launch of the new system.
ESD takes applications for benefits by phone 8 a.m-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, except on holidays. People with Social Security numbers ending with:
Applying for unemployment benefits later in the week does not delay benefit payments.
Claims center phones are open all week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for people needing to submit a weekly claim or ask a question.
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