Unemployment claims in Washington reach historical highs for third week in a row amid COVID-19

TACOMA -- The number of unemployment initial claims in Washington are at a historical high for the third week in a row. Though new numbers from the state’s Employment Security Department (ESD) are down slightly from last week, officials said there could be a surge of new claims in the coming weeks.

Thursday, ESD provided its weekly report for unemployment initial claims. During the week of March 29th to April 4th there were 170,063 claims filed. During that week, ESD paid out $79.4 million to 182,315 people statewide.

Tiara Woodard is one of the several thousands of Washingtonians who applied for assistance. She said it’s getting harder these days to put on a brave face for her daughter.

“I just want to be able to provide her a steady home. And I’m doing the best I can,” said Woodard. “I’m just hoping that I cannot be stressed out and mom doesn’t have to go cry in the bathroom because I’m stressed out.”

The single mother was working as a baker at Poodle Dog Restaurant in Fife. The restaurant temporarily closed due slow business during the COVID-19 pandemic. It cost Woodard her job.

“We are just hoping and praying that my boyfriend can keep working. He calls into work every single day, ‘Hey, do you need me, can I get extra hours?’ And if they say no, well then that’s it. We have no backup,” said Woodard.

Woodrard said she applied for unemployment March 15th and is currently waiting on three pending payments from ESD.

“If it keeps going for months, I’m going to have to start selling off my items, my own personal things just to pay that bill,” said Woodard.

Bills and taking care of her child—expenses she has no money saved up for. She’s hoping the unemployment benefits, or her job will start soon.

“I would love to go to work. It is one of my absolute dream jobs. I get to be in charge of myself, I get to be creative, I get to do all those things that I want to do. And I can’t wait to go back,” said Woodard.

ESD officials said they have staff working all hours of the day trying to handle the overwhelming number of claims. ESD also provides weekly unemployment initial claims charts arranged by its Labor Market and Economic Analysis division.