Recent Updates

State Unemployment Insurance Claim Fraud Alert

The Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) has been receiving and processing unemployment insurance claims at an unprecedented rate. Currently, the agency is focused on fast-tracking a backlog of claims but facing slow-downs cause by an increase in fraudulent claims.

Imposter fraud includes false claims filed with stolen information. There are reports of fake websites designed to steal personal information. ESD does not request sensitive information outside their official, secure website. Any site requesting confidential information should be treated with suspicion. Victims of unemployment fraud report to:

Thurston EDC Offering Expanded and Free Business Counseling

The Thurston Economic Development Council (EDC), through its Washington Center for Women in Business program, has received a US Small Business Administration (SBA) grant to help expand business counseling services in response to COVID-19. New services include free business coaching to help people develop recovery and adaptation strategies that make reopening easier and, potentially, more profitable. For more information:

How to Request Loan Forgiveness for PPP Loans

Adapted from Intuit Quickbooks:

If you are a recipient of a PPP loan, you may apply for forgiveness 8 weeks after your lender sent PPP funds. All or part of your loan may be forgiven if you meet certain requirements. The use of the PPP loan proceeds listed below pertain to the forgivable amount of a loan and are not the only allowable uses of a loan. Regulations and guidance from the SBA and the U.S. Department of the Treasury on the PPP are evolving rapidly and the below information may be outdated. Here are some things you should consider:

What’s the best way to use PPP funds to maximize potential loan forgiveness?

  • If you can, use loan funds within 8-week period after you receive funds. You don’t have to use all proceeds in the first 8 weeks. However, amounts spent after this 8-week period won’t be forgivable.
  • Use 75% or more funds on eligible payroll costs. Eligible payroll costs include compensation for employees whose principal residence is the U.S., including:
    • Salary, wages, commissions, or similar compensation
    • Additional wages paid to tipped employees, if applicable
    • Benefits, allowance for employee separation, insurance premiums, taxes, and retirement
    • To the extent an employee earns in excess of $100,000, you may only include a maximum payroll amount of $15,385 per employee in your forgiveness amount determination.
  • Use up to 25% of funds on other eligible business costs:
    • Business mortgage interest payments on mortgages in effect before February 15, 2020
    • Rent payments on leases dated before February 15, 2020
    • Utility payments for electricity, gas, water, transportation, telephone, or internet access under service agreements dated before February 15, 2020

What else may impact your forgivable amount?

  • Loan forgiveness may be reduced if the average # of FTE employees you employ during the 8-week period is less than the average number of FTE employees per pay period between:
    • February 15, 2019 and June 30, 2019, or
    • January 1, 2020 and February 29, 2020
  • Most borrowers can choose which time period to use for comparison, but seasonal employers must use February 15, 2019 to June 30, 2019. If any FTE reductions made between February 15, 2020 and April 26, 2020 are reversed by June 30th, 2020, your loan forgiveness amount will not be reduced.
  • Loan forgiveness may be reduced if you reduce total salary or wages for any employee during 8-week period more than 25% as compared to the most recent full quarter before the 8-week period.
  • If reductions made between February 15, 2020 and April 26, 2020 are reversed by June 30, 2020, your loan forgiveness amount will not be reduced. This forgiveness reduction does not apply to reductions associated with employees who had a salary or wages higher than $100,000 in 2019.
  • If you received an advance through the EIDL program, it will be deducted from your forgivable amount on a PPP loan.

How do I apply for forgiveness?

  • Submit application to your lender. Once you submit, your lender will determine loan forgiveness eligibility within 60 days. Be prepared to provide the following information for 8-week period:
    • Payroll tax filings
    • State income, payroll, and unemployment insurance filings
    • Canceled checks, receipts, transcripts of accounts, or other documents verifying payments on mortgage obligations, payments on covered lease obligations, and utility payments
    • Documentation of any advance received under the EIDL Emergency Grant program

Rent and Energy Bill Assistance Available to Low-Income Households

The Department of Commerce has announced $9 million in rent and energy assistance to serve low-income households. Commerce is providing up to $1,000 in rental assistance and up to $500 in energy assistance. For more information, please contact:

Community Action Council of Lewis, Mason & Thurston Counties
3020 Willamette Drive NE Lacey, WA 98516

Update for People Awaiting Unemployment Benefits

The Employment Security Department (ESD) has provided additional information for people who have not successfully qualified or received unemployment insurance benefits. See below if this issue is affecting you:

Unemployment Benefits Adjudication Update

ESD is working night and day to resolve this: This includes clearing out issues for things that aren’t relevant during the COVID-19 crisis. ESD is also adding more staff. Hear more from ESD’s commissioner, Suzi Levine.

While you wait: Check your spam folder—regularly. Adjudicators may be trying to reach you with questions so they can resolve the issues that are blocking your benefits. Did you apply online through eServices? You’ll get messages from asking you to sign in. Sign in and respond to those requests within five days—the sooner the better. You may also get follow-up emails from ESD. Make sure you reply to those emails directly.

Answer your phone if you get a call from 800-318-6022. If you miss a call from ESD, the only way to call back is through the main line for the claims center—and it won’t be easy to get through. Do everything you can to answer your phone and avoid calling back through the claims center. ESD’s claims centers are overloaded. The department has seen a 1000% increase in calls to its claims center, and last week was getting 100 calls per second.

What is adjudication? It’s required when ESD needs more information to determine your eligibility for benefits. There are a lot of different reasons for this. Often, the department needs more details about why you’re not working. ESD also needs to verify that you meet requirements, such as being able to work if a job is available.

Why does it hold up payment? All benefits are determined on a case-by-case basis. Your specific circumstances affect what you’re eligible for. ESD needs to confirm things like work history, any job separations, and the hours you’ve worked before the department can determine what you’re eligible for. And, if incorrect information was accidentally submitted, ESD has to verify the correct information before it can approve a claim.

Adjudication requires fact-finding and specialized expertise. Adjudicators go through extensive training to develop deep expertise. They’re different than ESD’s intake staff, who are prepared to answer more general questions. If, for example, employers give ESD information that doesn’t match, adjudicators:

  • Do more fact finding to identify the correct information.
  • Apply state and federal laws.
  • Determine if workers are eligible and the kind of benefits they can get.

Under normal circumstances, it takes around 21 days to adjudicate issues on a claim: These aren’t normal circumstances. ESD has had more applications in the last seven weeks than the previous three and a half years combined. And with so many businesses closed, it’s harder to reach employers if ESD needs to verify information with them.

It’s about due process for everyone: ESD does not want to deny your benefits because of a discrepancy and needs to ensure claims filed under your name are really you. It is important to protect you, and all taxpayers, from fraud. Unfortunately, this does take time. ESD is sorry you have to wait and is working hard to resolve all cases in adjudication as quickly as it can.

Stay tuned for more: ESD will be posting updates on its progress to resolve adjudication cases on its website at starting next week.