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$25 weekly benefit boost arrives—finally

OLYMPIA (Sept. 27) — Workers who have filed unemployment insurance claims in Washington since March 6 will be getting a welcome — and overdue — boost in their benefit payments this week.

In February, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed HB 1091, which cut employers’ UI tax rates by some $300 million through 2017, but also provided a $25-a-week benefit increase to anyone opening a new unemployment claim between March 6 and Nov. 5. In the time since, Employment Security Department says it had “had to complete extensive computer programming” to include the increase. The agency announced Monday that this work is finally complete.

Those who filed new claims since March 6 will receive a lump-sum payment of $25 for each week they have claimed benefits. The retroactive payments distributed to approximately 100,000 claimants will total some $22 million, an average of $220 each. In future weeks, the $25 increase will be included in their weekly benefit payments.

The Washington State Labor Council (WSLC) and the United Labor Lobby fought hard during the 2011 legislative session to win additional benefits for unemployed workers and their families. While it fell short of the permanent children’s benefit originally sought, HB 1091 was a welcome increase that will help not only these struggling families, but also the businesses in their communities.

“Everyone knows that what Washington and the nation really needs is new jobs. But in the meantime, this extra $100 a month will help families put food on their table and keep a roof over their heads,” said WSLC President Jeff Johnson. “Plus, this money gets spent immediately at local businesses and that means an economic boost in every community in the state.”

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that for every $1 of unemployment benefits, $2.15 of purchasing power is created in the economy. That means the $22 million distributed this week will pump more than $47 million into local businesses, and that increased purchasing power will continue with the ongoing $25 per week boost.

If UI claimants have questions about how this change affects their benefits, call the Unemployment Insurance Claims Center at 800-318-6022, or submit your question in writing through the Employment Security website.

The WSLC will continue to work with the United Labor Lobby during the 2012 legislative session to protect the interests of Washington’s working families and those struggling to find jobs. If you have a story about your experience on unemployment or what the program has meant to you and your family, please share it with us, or contact the WSLC’s Teresa Mosqueda at 360-943-0608.

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