Collective misery over unemployment benefit backlog leads to a community of support

SEATTLE -- Around 50 National Guard members arrived Thursday to help the Employment Security Department with the enormous backlog in claims. Another 50 are expected to arrive in the next few weeks.

The unprecedented move to bring in the National Guard stems from Washington state falling victim to a massive fraud scheme.

Criminals have stolen up to $650 million by filing bogus claims that slipped through undetected by ESD.

On Thursday, ESD said $350 million of those funds have been recovered.

Commissioner Suzi Levine also revealed that around 81,000 Washingtonians, many of them who filed claims as early as March 8, have not received a penny from the state.

Frustrations boiling over is an understatement.

Many say the hardest part is the lack of communication and not knowing where they stand in the cue.

The collective misery has led to the creation of the Washington State Unemployment Support Group. The Facebook group now has nearly 12,900 members. It’s a platform where people can simply vent.

One woman’s post stated that she was going on week 13 and that she was losing all hope.

Others are also posting exciting declarations whenever they get through to ESD or finally get paid.

The Facebook group has become a community where people can exchange ideas, resources and advice.

“Reading the post and the questions of everybody on this site, it’s heartbreaking,” Danielle McDowell said.

McDowell says she was close to just giving up if it wasn’t for strangers rallying her on in the support group.

“When you see someone else get positive results it makes you want to try,” McDowell said.

After 3 long months, McDowell is finally getting paid after her claim got through all the technical roadblocks and ID verification.

“Because I was helped, I wanted to pay it forward to a family,” McDowell said.

The Seattle woman says she will donate some of her money to one family with kids proving that collective misery can become a helpful lifeline.

“It’s probably one of the hardest things we will go through besides COVID-19 but there will be a light at the end of the tunnel,” McDowell said.

ESD says if you have filed a claim, try not to call repeatedly. They plan on ramping up calling on their end to resolve issues moving forward.