OLYMPIA (Sept. 2, 2021) — The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), the $2.2 trillion federal economic stimulus bill approved in March 2020 in response to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, temporarily expanded and extended unemployment benefits. It is expiring this week and here’s what that means for recipients of unemployment benefits in Washington state.
The week ending Sept. 4 is the last payable week of benefits from these programs:
● Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) — For the self-employed, freelancers, independent contractors and others who don’t qualify for regular unemployment benefits.
● Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) — Extends benefits after you run out of regular unemployment benefits.
● Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) — The extra $300 a week for all eligible claimants.
It means that an estimated 200,000 people in Washington state, and millions of Americans throughout the country, will no longer be receiving unemployment benefits, or will receive significantly lower benefit checks.
If you still need benefits after Sept. 4, you might be able to file weekly claims if you have an active unemployment claim, or you may be able to apply for a new claim, or restart one.
The Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) recommends that you:
● Keep filing your weekly claims — Through Sept. 4, keep filing for weeks that you want to receive benefits.
● Watch for — and respond to — future messages — If you might be affected by the end of the federal pandemic programs, ESD will send you information in your eServices account or by mail. Respond to any of ESD’s requests for information. Even if you have stopped claiming or found a job, ESD still might need to contact you.
● Get help with your job search — WorkSource can help you find your next job or career. Go to WorkSourceWA.com to get started. Under Resources, use the WorkSource locator to find an office near you and see what services are available virtually and in-person.
If you are filing back-to-back claims, the unemployment insurance program requires you to return to work to requalify for a new claim. There are three important requirements you must meet before you can become eligible for benefits again:
1. Your claim year must have expired. You can only file one valid unemployment claim per benefit year. If you have exhausted your benefits, you cannot file a new claim until after your current claim expires. Claims in Washington begin on a Sunday and end on a Saturday. You can apply for your new claim as early as the day after your expiration date.
2. Once your benefit claim year expires, you must have worked at least 680 hours in covered employment in your new base year in order to have a valid unemployment claim. The base year is the first four of the last five completed quarters prior to the effective date of your claim. If you do not have at least 680 hours in that base year, you may file using an alternate base year which is the last four completed quarters.
3. If you have enough hours to qualify for a valid claim, and you are filing back-to-back unemployment claims, you must have returned to work and earned at least six times your new weekly benefit amount in order for you to be eligible for benefits on that claim. The wages do not need to be earned at the same employer you were previously separated from, but they do have to have been earned since you opened your previous claim.”
ESD also warns that, as was the case when the pandemic first began and these benefits were expanded, the agency is receiving a high volume of calls right now from people with questions and reaching agents by phone will be very difficult. Get updated information at esd.wa.gov/COVID-19 and apply for benefits at esd.wa.gov/unemployment.