The Employment Security Department reports a large drop in initial regular unemployment claims, a drop they associate with fraud prevention measures.
During the week of May 17-23, there were 48,445 initial regular unemployment claims, down 65% from the prior week and 1,497,591 total claims for all unemployment benefit categories filed by Washingtonians, according to the Employment Security Department (ESD). ESD believes the decrease was in large part due to significant fraud prevention measures that were put in place over the past two weeks.
The numbers are still shocking.
Since the week ending March 7 when COVID-19 job losses began:
- A total of 1,996,257 initial claims have been filed during the pandemic (1,252,608 regular unemployment insurance, 397,845 PUA and 345,804 PEUC)
- A total of 1,130,519 distinct individuals have filed for unemployment benefits
- ESD has paid out nearly $4.7 billion in benefits
- 807,071 individuals who have filed an initial claim have been paid
The ESD commissioner also reports success in recovering and stopping fraudulent payments.
“Our priorities from day one of this crisis have been to get benefits out to Washingtonians who need them quickly and expand eligibility so those impacted can get the help they need,” said ESD Commissioner Suzi LeVine. “In recent weeks, at the same time we have taken aggressive measures to tackle the increase of imposter fraud in our system, we have stayed laser-focused on helping every Washingtonian with a valid claim get the benefits they deserve. Meanwhile, our team continues to work with federal law enforcement to go after the criminals perpetrating the fraud, help the victims and recoup the money. The dramatic decline in initial claims this week is a strong signal that the additional steps we are taking to address imposter fraud are working. We’ve already recovered and stopped the payments of hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent claims in the past two weeks, and we will continue to reclaim every dollar we can.”
The April map of county unemployment rates tells a sobering story of double-digit rates.