During these challenging times, lots of residents are wondering whether they qualify for unemployment insurance, how they can apply, and more.
Congress passed the CARES Act to extend unemployment benefits to impacted workers, and to give people the resources they need to get through this crisis.
The Washington State Employment Security Department is the agency in charge of administering these benefits. Below I am including a few of the most frequently asked questions I’ve received regarding unemployment insurance – I hope these are helpful to you.
Q: How does the CARES Act expand unemployment insurance to those who usually do not qualify?
The CARES Act provides funding to extend unemployment benefits to individuals who do not typically qualify – independent contractors, gig workers, self-employed individuals, and those who don’t have the typically required 680 hours.
The Employment Security Department (ESD) is targeting April 18 as the date to apply for expanded benefits provided by the CARES Act. To receive updates from the ESD on when this becomes available, click here.
Q: What additional benefits will become available under the CARES Act?
An additional $600 per week will be available to everyone on unemployment from March 29 through the week ending July 25. People are also eligible to collect benefits for an additional 13 weeks, meaning that they can collect unemployment for up to 39 weeks. These expanded benefits will be available to people who were already on unemployment as well as those who are newly eligible.
Q: If I’m newly eligible for unemployment benefits under the CARES Act, when should I apply?
If you are newly eligible under the CARES Act, the ESD asks that you not apply for unemployment insurance until its system is set up to process claims of newly eligible individuals to ensure you aren’t incorrectly denied.
The ESD is targeting April 18 as the date to apply for expanded benefits provided by the CARES Act. To receive updates from the ESD on when this becomes available, click here.
Q: What information do I need in order to apply?
You should begin to collect your payment records from your base year. Your base year is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters before the week in which you file your claim. Make sure to go through the checklist on the ESD’s website.
Q: I’ve exhausted my unemployment benefits. Is there any help for me?
Yes. The CARES Act provides an extra 13 weeks unemployment, which can be used if you already exhausted unemployment benefits in the preceding weeks.
Q: I have heard the state expanded eligibility due to COVID-19 to cover individuals who have had their work hours reduced and/or their place of business has ceased operating. Where can I get more information on the emergency rules?
If you are not receiving paid sick leave or paid time off, you may be eligible for unemployment. You can refer to this guide for workers impacted by COVID-19 who can now apply for unemployment under the emergency rules. ESD emphasizes decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. Basic eligibility requirements for a claim can be found here. Q: I work in Oregon but live in Washington. Where should I apply?
You cannot apply for unemployment benefits in Washington or file weekly claims if you did not work in the state during the past 18 months. The only exceptions are if you were in the military or worked for the federal government. More information here. You can find Oregon’s unemployment website, here.
Additionally, the ESD is conducting webinars this week on how to apply for unemployment insurance. You can access the webinar calendar and sign up, here. For more questions and answers on unemployment insurance, please visit the ESD’s website, here.
If you have any additional questions, concerns, or comments for me, please contact me here.
I’m also continuing to update my COVID-dedicated web page, JHB.house.gov/coronavirus, with the latest information on assistance for small businesses, local and state health resources, official CDC guidelines and more.
Please stay safe and healthy, and let me know how I can be of assistance to you.
Jaime Herrera Beutler
Member of Congress