Who can get unemployment benefits, how to apply

The following is expanded from COVID-19 Resources for Washington Workers of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO:

OLYMPIA (March 25, 2020) — Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, if you have been laid off or had your hours reduced in Washington state, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits, which is partial wage replacement from the state. Under the new emergency rules, benefits are also available to workers who have been quarantined due to exposure or are self-quarantined because they are immune-compromised.

The Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) is where you apply for these benefits. But keep in mind that they are experiencing long wait times due to high demand.

“As you know, the situation is changing rapidly, and we continue to update our communications and our technology to reflect the new emergency rules as they are enacted,” writes ESD. “We know this can be confusing and we are so thankful for your patience.”

Here are some of the most recent emergency rule changes ESD has adopted:

► If you are laid off work as a result of the governor’s stay home order issued on March 23, you are eligible for unemployment benefits.

— When you apply for benefits, you should select “laid off” as your reason for separating from your employer. Choose “Company temporarily closed” from the secondary options.
— This does not apply to employees who are considered essential critical infrastructure workers, as outlined by the governor.
— As new information emerges, this is subject to change.

► Work search requirements are optional for all claimants until further notice.

► You can request standby status for up to 12 weeks.

► The one-week waiting period to be eligible for unemployment benefits is waived.

Download and share this helpful UNITE HERE Local 8 fact sheet in English, Chinese, Spanish, French, Amharic, and Vietnamese on applying for unemployment benefits in Washington state.

ESD warns that some who have applied for “standby status” unemployment benefits (full-time or part-time) may receive an automated notice indicating their request is denied. Do not worry, that notice does not reflect the emergency rules which allow workers to request up to 12 weeks of standby. Employers will be notified of your application.

“Please know that the Employment Security Department and the entire state is mobilized and ready to help you through this difficult time,” writes ESD. “We are all in this together.”

You can find the most recent information about how ESD programs can help workers affected by COVID-19 in a Q&A posted here.

Here is ESD’s easy-to-read comparison guide (also available in Spanish) explaining the most common scenarios and what benefits that may apply.

DENIED UNEMPLOYMENT? — If you have been denied unemployment benefits, contact the Unemployment Law Project. With offices in Seattle and Spokane, the ULP provides low-cost representation and free advice and counsel to people in Washington state who have been denied unemployment benefits or whose award of benefits is being challenged. Learn more here.


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