Can the folks who are responsible for unemployment checks really implement Inslee’s contact tracing?
Updated: May 18, 2020
This week, Governor Jay Inslee announced new requirements for restaurants and other businesses to incrementally re-open during phase II. Governor Inslee describes the June 1 target for phase II as “hopeful but not set in stone”.
Inslee’s new requirements include contact tracing, wider testing, and quarantining. Many of the rules that are applied to businesses are essentially unfunded mandates. It is unclear how these new rules will be implemented and the ACLU is already questioning the contact tracing.
The new contact tracing will be labor intensive and Inslee has a staff of 1371 trained National Guard Members, Department of Licensing employees, and Health Department professionals. Contact tracing, says Inslee, must be “quick to be effective”. Inslee promises that contacts will be notified within 24 hours. He promises that he has “properly resourced what’s necessary to make this initiative work”.
Contrast the governor’s ambitious contact tracing plan with the state’s ability to administer our unemployment insurance program. From March 15 th to May 7 th , a staggering 21.5% of our workforce, over a million people, applied for unemployment.(Bloomberg). The state has a backlog of at least 265,000 cases and has begun a week of asking folks not to call so that they can try to clear the backlog. Essentially, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” State officials estimate that they will be caught up by mid-June. Additionally, a spike in fraudulent claims has force the Employment Security Department (ESD) to suspend all payments for two days so that an investigation can be conducted. Here is a suggestion: perhaps we should consider “properly resourcing” the ESD so that families can eat.
In the meantime, the unemployed wait for payments and businesses are decimated as they wait for the next target date for re-opening. Governor Inslee opines that the “sacrifices across the state of Washington have been profound.” He is correct but I am not sure he understands the magnitude of the problem. What we need is a plan to re-open safely and quickly. It is unclear how these new rules will be implemented and the ACLU is already questioning the contact tracing.
Governor Inslee, the waiting game needs to be over.