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'You can’t get through': Call log for Washington unemployment claims backed up for weeks

While an unemployment claim can be filed online, you have to speak with a representative if there is an issue with your account.

SPOKANE, Wash. — A high volume of applications for unemployment benefits in Washington State have overloaded the system’s call servers.

Viewers told KREM 2 reporter Shayna Waltower they had been calling for more than a week trying to get in contact with someone at the Employee Security Department.

While an unemployment claim can be filed online, you have to speak with a representative if there is an issue with your account.

“It doesn’t matter what time you start or how many times a day you call. You can’t get through to anybody,” said Tiffany Groff.

Groff is a hotel housekeeper. She said her boss told her to find other options after seeing a sharp decline in business.

“I went from working sometimes seven days a week full-time, to working nothing. I have no hours now,” she said.

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After filing an unemployment claim, Groff said her case was denied because she hadn’t worked enough hours in the last quarter of 2019.

She tried to call to speak with someone at the department but said she kept getting a message telling her to call again.

“For a straight hour, I would call, and it would give me the message. I would hang up and call right back,” she said.

On Friday afternoon, she said she called more than 60 times.

“We’ve got bills we’ve gotta pay,” she said. “There’s not money coming in. We’ve got food that we’re going to have to buy.”

Several others said they were in a similar situation.

“I try to call every five or ten minutes,” said Katie Thomas.

Thomas stopped working when her dental office started only accepting emergency patients.

When she tried to file for unemployment, she received an error message saying her social security number was incorrect.

“In the online portal you can request a call back, but right now it won’t be until April 28th,” Thomas said. “So I just keep calling.”

Nick Demerice, public affairs manager for the Employment Security Department, said their servers aren’t equipped to handle the large volume of calls.

He said the department is hiring 200 additional employees to help with the demand and will begin weekend operations.

“We’re really trying to do as much as we can to meet that need,” Demerice said. “It’s just so many within the system.”

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