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Coulee not exempt from big scam on unemployment


Last updated 5/27/2020 at 8:41am

An unemployment benefits scam has been happening in multiple states the past couple of weeks, costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars, and there have even been incidents in the Coulee. 

In the state of Washington, an additional 369,016 people filed claims for unemployment benefits from May 10-16, bringing the total number of claims to 1,670,580, an increase of about 28% from the previous week.

The Employment Security Department “believes some portion of the high numbers from the past week are due to an increase in fraudulent claims,” a May 21 news release from the ESD says. 

Washington Employment Security Commissioner Suzi Levine said the scam is a “coordinated criminal attack” that led to “tens of thousands of individuals whose stolen information has been used to file fraudulent claims.”

“We believe that this translates into hundreds of millions of dollars,” she said.

Victims of the scam are not responsible for paying back the money.

Locally, at least four people have been victim to the scam.

The Grand Coulee Police Department, reports show, received multiple reports in recent weeks from people saying they have been victims of the scam.

Officers in those instances told the victims to contact the ESD if they hadn’t already. 

The ESD release also provides some data on unemployment since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Since the week ending March 7, when COVID-19 job losses began:

a total of 1,937,576 initial claims have been filed during the pandemic (1,222,861 regular unemployment insurance, 381,904 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and 332,811 Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation)

A total of 1,106,684 distinct individuals have filed for unemployment benefits

ESD has paid out nearly $3.8 billion in benefits to Washingtonians

768,217 individuals who have filed an initial claim have been paid.


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