How to Apply for Unemployment in Washington

by Lyle Daly | Updated July 17, 2021 - First published on April 6, 2020

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Planning to apply for unemployment benefits in Washington? Here's everything you need to know.

Planning to apply for unemployment benefits in Washington? Here's everything you need to know.

Unemployment claims have been skyrocketing because of the COVID-19 crisis and states have been adjusting their regulations to deal with this unprecedented situation.

If you've seen your income drop, you may be able to claim weekly unemployment benefits. In this guide, you'll learn how to do so in Washington State and how the recently passed government stimulus bill could affect your claim.

Do I qualify for unemployment benefits?

To qualify for unemployment benefits in Washington, you must be able to work and be separated from your job for a reason that the state's Employment Security Department (ESD) accepts. The standard reasons are: laid off, quit with good cause, terminated due to no fault of your own, or still working less than full-time.

The ESD has also clarified several situations related to COVID-19 in which you may qualify for unemployment:

  • You're self-quarantining due to guidance issued by a medical professional or public health official after you were exposed to COVID-19, but you're not sick, and you're not receiving paid sick leave.
  • Your employer goes out of business.
  • You're temporarily laid off.
  • Your employer temporarily shuts down, and you're not receiving paid sick leave or paid time off.

If you need to take time off because you contracted COVID-19, the ESD advises using paid sick leave. If that is not available, you may be able to get paid family and medical leave.

The ESD normally requires that you worked at least 680 hours in covered employment during your base year, which is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters. However, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act has expanded who is eligible for unemployment benefits, so you may qualify even if you haven't completed this requirement.

How do I apply for unemployment benefits?

You can apply for unemployment benefits online through the ESD's eServices page.

Note that you should only apply for unemployment right now if you were already eligible before the CARES Act passed. If you weren't eligible until that passed (for example, you don't meet the minimum 680 hours of covered employment), then the ESD system currently isn't set up to accept your application.

You'll need to subscribe to the ESD's COVID-19 email updates so that you receive an alert when the system is updated and you can apply. This update is expected to be finished around mid-April.

The date your weekly benefits start is based on the start date for the unemployment program and the date you became eligible for unemployment. The program that expanded who is eligible for unemployment benefits, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), started on March 29, 2020. This means you won't lose any weekly benefits if you need to wait until mid-April to apply.

How much money will I receive in unemployment benefits?

Weekly unemployment benefits in Washington range from $188 to $790. Your weekly benefit amount depends on your earnings during your base year, and you'll find out how much you'll get after you apply for unemployment.

The CARES Act is also providing an additional $600 per week for everyone on unemployment from March 29 through July 31, 2020. Although the ESD is working on its technology to start paying this additional amount, it will backdate claims to ensure everyone gets the full amount they're owed.

Benefits are paid either through a direct deposit to your bank account or to a prepaid debit card the ESD sends you. When you apply for unemployment, you can choose your preferred payment method.

How long can I collect unemployment benefits?

You can collect unemployment benefits for up to 26 weeks in Washington. However, the CARES Act extends that period by 13 weeks, allowing you to collect unemployment benefits for up to 39 weeks.

What if my unemployment claim is denied?

If your unemployment claim is denied, you have the right to appeal. Your unemployment determination notice will include instructions on how to start this process. The easiest way to appeal the decision is online through your eServices account.

Solving your financial problems

COVID-19 has left many Americans with money troubles. However, unemployment benefits can provide some income, and the qualification requirements are much more open than they have been in the past. If you're in need of more help, check out our guide on where to find financial assistance.

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