Jonny Meade Statement on State Supreme Court Filing re: WA Employment Security Department
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Mon, Jun 8, 2020
In the State Supreme Court last Friday, attorneys with the Unemployment Law Project filed a petition against Suzi LeVine, Commissioner of the Employment Security Department. The case centers around the halting of unemployment benefit payments for months for tens of thousands of workers. These workers have had their benefits cut with no due process or hearing, dooming thousands of working families to houselessness. The reason given for this blanket halt to payments is that the state is “investigating fraud” and “overloaded” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Expecting busy working families to verify their identities to resume benefit payments and provide multiple forms of ID via email is a recipe for additional identity theft. Commissioner LeVine and the Employment Security Department is failing to fulfill a duty to pay benefits promptly. Requiring these sorts of tests and qualifying conditions on receiving guaranteed benefits is unacceptable.
Our state lost 527,000 jobs in March. Over 22,000 of those were in Thurston County. Even with that knowledge, Democrats and Republicans alike have still not begun talks for a special legislative session. As more of our community is falling into despair, it seems our legislators live in a comfortable bubble, sheltered by their inaction. The rest of us don’t have that luxury.
We need leaders who understand the urgency of trying to feed your family, pay your rent, and get critical medication. We have no more time for excuses. Lives are on the line. Our legislators need to get back to work, and Commissioner LeVine needs to process and provide prompt payment of benefits to unemployed workers across Washington.
I fully support the Unemployment Law Project in their petition against Unemployment Security Commissioner Suzi LeVine. Unfortunately, even if the court orders the relief requested, this will only force the state to go back to a status quo, which was already failing us. While the Governor has rightly put a halt to evictions, many are accruing late fees and impacts to their credit scores. And when the Governor eventually gives in to business pressure to fully reopen our state, lost jobs won’t suddenly reappear, but the rent will still be due.
In the short term, we need immediate rent and mortgage forgiveness. In the long run, an extension and expansion of unemployment benefits will be necessary to prevent further damage to the working class. We need unprecedented investment in 21st-century infrastructure via a job guarantee for those who can work. The state must also provide public housing, universal broadband, and other vital material benefits. The legislature must call a special session to begin enacting these changes immediately.
We don’t have time to wait for new legislators to be elected, and we certainly don’t have time to wait until the 2021 legislative session. It’s time for our legislature to enact immediate emergency relief because not all of us have the luxury of working just a few months per year.
Our legislature also needs to fight to take the tax burden off the backs of workers, raise wages, and put working families first. We need to empower the working class not just to survive the COVID-19 crisis but build a future and community in which we can thrive.
Candidate for State Legislature
LD 22 Pos 1