Virus Outbreak Jobs

A man wearing a mask and gloves walks along the corner of 18th Street and K Street in Northwest, an area usually packed with people this time of day, Wednesday, April 29, 2020, in Washington. The government is set to report another shocking level of unemployment claims Thursday even after nearly 10 million people applied for benefits in the previous two weeks because of business shutdowns from the coronavirus.

A hiccup in the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program delayed payments to an untold number of previously unqualified individuals who'd been waiting upwards of two months for expanded access to benefits during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. 

 "I can't say it anymore straightforward than we made a mistake, and we're trying to correct it as quickly as we can," said Director for the Division of Unemployment Insurance Darry Scott Tuesday on The Rick Jensen Show. "We're working to try and be able to better estimate how long it will take us to get through the claims to make those payments."

They notified a number of people who would have qualified for the PUA, and were surprised they didn't have more claims. But in initially processing those claims, the division marked several people they then had to reverse course on. 

"As of last week, we were close to 6000 claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and what's interesting--and not in a positive way--we mailed to more than 16,000 people notifying them of their eligibility for unemployment assistance," he said. "We have, today, over 7,000 people who've activated their accounts. And we've had over 6,200 claims filed. So, just to explain that, you first have to activate your account. And so there's there's 800 people who have an activated account that have not yet filed a claim. And we're also finding people who filed claims, but they don't submit weekly certification, so that messes everything up...The average was between eight and nine weeks worth of benefits that were paid."

He said the new system is capable of post-date certifications back to March. Scott said they signified in the system some claims had been paid, but then had to reverse that designation, which then removed that claim from the queue. 

"The majority of people that were flagged as to be paid, we reversed," he said. "We made a mistake when we flipped the flag and indicated they were paid and we had to reverse it. And so we're trying to process and pay as many of them in the next couple of days, and we will be communicating with others if we need additional updated information."

Apologetically, Scott--whose division has paid out hundreds of millions in unemployment insurance so far--said he understands why people are upset, and only asked for more time to allow them to reprocess the claims. 

"In learning to operate the new system, we made a selection of claims that potentially could be paid. Upon reviewing it, we had to reduce the number, because there were still some information that was missing or not yet validated. And when the initial selection was made, it changed the status, indicating they might be paid, and when we reverse it, that was the reversal," he said. "It was a mistake, and we understand the stress and frustration that's causing. That's why we're trying to use additional data that's available or might be available to help us qualify and approve those claims."