May 12, 2021
Washington state workers will have better assurance of equitable and effective processing of unemployment claims and transparent metrics of the performance of the Employment Security Department following the enactment of SB 5193, signed today by Governor Jay Inslee.
The bill, actively backed by ULP throughout the 2021 legislative session, won passage through the leadership of its prime sponsor, Senator Mike Conway, and lead sponsor in the House, Rep. Dan Bronoske. ULP assisted with development of bill language and testimony on its behalf.
Effective July 25, 2021, SB 5193 requires ESD to:
- Launch a training program to create a pool of adjudicators to have in reserve when unemployment claims levels surge.
- Use plain language, tested on claimants for comprehensibility, in all letters, alerts, and notices.
- Clearly explain the law behind all determinations and redeterminations, the relevant facts, the reasoning, the decision, and the result.
- Explore possible thresholds that trigger automatic adjustments in staffing, a pilot to provide a caseworker approach to benefit claims, and increased language access.
- Dedicate a toll-free number for claimants with limited computer access or computer skills, disabilities, or limited English proficiency.
- Maintain an online data dashboard and provide quarterly reports with performance metrics that include call volumes, hold times, repeat calls, and all-circuits-busy messages for employers and claimants, updates of unemployment rates, claims data, claims center phone statistics, staffing ratios, overpayment data, pending claims, pending appeals, recipiency rates, and other information.
- Report quarterly to the legislature on progress in implementing SB 5193, including any software or technology issues causing delays, and other claims processing issues.
Other legislation to benefit unemployment benefits claimants passed this year as well. In February, Governor Inslee signed SB 5061, also supported by ULP, which protects employees’ rights to quit or refuse a job that puts them at high risk during a public health emergency and makes a waiver of waiting weeks for benefits automatic when the cost is covered by federal funds.