After standing together to push for the closure of public-facing licensing offices to keep all Washingtonians healthy, PROTEC17 members at the Department of Licensing (DOL) stepped up in a big way to help during the COVID-19 crisis. Over 100 members have already volunteered to help with the flood of questions that have come into Washington’s Employment Security Department (ESD), which processes unemployment claims. 

With a high percentage of people out of work due to mandated health closures, unemployment applications have skyrocketed in Washington state and throughout the country. 

Because of their experience in customer service, PROTEC17 members who work as Licensing Service Representatives (LSRs) at the DOL were deemed a natural fit to help triage the thousands of questions and claims that have come into ESD each day since the start of the coronavirus.  LSRs who are volunteering for ESD will be provided with all necessary equipment and will be able to answer and respond to calls from home. Volunteers will continue to be compensated at their current rate of pay and receive their same benefits. 

“This is an exciting opportunity for our LSRs to offer support to their fellow state workers that are being hit hard from the financial impact that COVID-19 is having across all areas of employment,” said PROTEC17 Union Representative Alexis Young.  

Starting April 18, the state’s unemployment website will incorporate additional federal benefits, expanding who’s eligible to include those impacted by COVID-19, including independent contractors, self-employed people, and those with fewer than 680 hours worked. It also provides everyone receiving benefits, including people who are already receiving unemployment, with an additional $600 per week and 13 more weeks on unemployment if they need it.

PROTEC17 member Bonnie Caress, who works at the Kent Licensing office, jumped at the chance to lend a hand.

“I was really excited for the opportunity to help out my fellow Washingtonians,” she said. “We’re fortunate to be able to work from home, and that our customer service expertise can be used to provide relief to people who are worried and suffering right now.”

Five other LSRs in the Kent office have volunteered to work for ESD. Caress is also sewing masks in her spare time.  

Other LSRs continue to work from home on regular DOL work and projects. PROTEC17 member Elizabeth Guajardo, who works out of the North Vancouver, Wash. office, is continuing to take trainings and is also completing a LEAN project that will help the DOL streamline services. 

“As an LSR, our job function is important to all the residents of Washington State for work, school, prescriptions, and doctor appointments. Each person needs a valid form of identification to live and thrive on a day-to-day basis,” said Guajardo.