SEATTLE - The Employment Security Department is so inundated that in the last two days there have been more than half a million visits to their website. The typical volume in a span of two days is 30,000 visits.
The traffic is also causing the system to have periodic outages. ESD says they are working on this problem.
Employers and their workers affected by permanent and temporary closures during the coronavirus outbreak are hoping there will be relief soon.
Swink Style Bar in Seattle is one of many businesses shut down.
“Rent is coming up, you have to eat,” Swink Style Bar Owner Carolyn Bardon said.
Bardon is worried about her 22 employees and how they are going to make it during the salon’s temporary closure.
“I sent information to my team to go straight to Washington Employment Security website,” Bardon said.
But the process of applying for unemployment benefits can be confusing.
Bardon says some of her workers are getting denied after trying to apply.
She’s tried multiple times to talk to someone at ESD but Bardon says she can’t get through.
On Wednesday, ESD spokesperson Nick Demerice confirming to Q13 News that they are experiencing a huge spike in calls and inquiries. On Tuesday alone they received 19,000 calls.
There is also a glitch on their website that is currently telling part-time workers they are not eligible for unemployment benefits when they are.
“Don’t panic, you have done nothing wrong. You don’t need to call us,” Demerice said.
For businesses that are temporarily shut down, workers can apply for what’s called the Standby program. But right now, part-time workers are getting denied through EDS’s website.
The department says that is an error because their computer system has not caught up to the latest emergency changes. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, part-time workers were not eligible for Standby but now they are under the current situation.
“We want to assure folks that is not the case and that they are eligible,” Demerice said.
The state says they will contact anyone who received a denial in error.
That is somewhat of a relief for Bardon, but Standby does not bail out business owners just workers.
“I am worried about all the small business owners who are just falling through the cracks,” Bardon said.
Bardon says she is going to do everything she can to not lay off any of her employees during these difficult times. Unfortunately, that’s turning out to be impossible for other small business owners.
“They’ve had to make the hard decision today to lay off their workers,” Bardon said.
If you have been laid off from your job you are qualified to apply for benefits through ESD only if you have worked 680 hours in the last 12 months with one or more employers.
The state is also encouraging people to look for new jobs listed on Worksourcewa.com.
There are several industries in need of workers more than ever due to COVID-19.
ESD says they will be extending their phone hours during the day to meet the demand in calls.