COVID-19 information for workers

(en español)

The CARES Act and other federal programs expanded and extended unemployment benefits for many claimants. Those programs expired the week ending Sept. 4, 2021.

The week ending Sept. 4 is the last payable week for:

Also expiring the week ending Sept. 4: additional $300 per week for all eligible claimants.
By federal law, all claimants were getting $300 in addition to their usual weekly benefit amount for a limited time, except those receiving Training Benefits.

For those with claims pending in adjudication or appeal after Sept. 4:
Benefits will be available. If we find that claimants are eligible, we will pay benefits for weeks claimed before Sept. 4.

(Updated Sept. 6, 2021)

 

Expired federal benefit programs

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance 

Extends Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) 

Provides new Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefits. Additional $300 per week for eligible claimants. 

When will the benefit extensions expire?

All federal programs that expanded and extended unemployment benefits expired the week ending Sept. 4, 2021. 

What should I do if I’m currently receiving benefits from any benefit programs: Regular unemployment, PUA or PEUC?

1. Continue filing weekly claims for weeks you want to get benefits.
2. Watch for updates via email, social media and messages in eServices.
3. Respond to any of our requests for information. Even if you have stopped claiming or found a job, we still might need to contact you.
4. Please try not to call our Unemployment Claims Center with general questions. Call volume remains very high. Find the latest information on this page and the COVID-19 page.

What should I do if I’ve used up all my benefits?

If you have used up your benefits and your benefit year has ended, you might be eligible for a new claim. The easiest way to apply is online via eServices. If you can’t apply online, you can call the Unemployment Claims Center.

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.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

Are PUA overpayments eligible for waivers?

With the passing of the Continued Assistance for Unemployed Workers Act of 2020, PUA overpayments are now eligible for waiver consideration. You do not need to request a waiver. Those who are potentially eligible for a waiver will be sent a questionnaire that we will use to determine waiver eligibility. There is a large number of PUA overpayments we need to review before sending the questionnaire and it may take us most of 2021 to do this.

How do I submit a PUA weekly claim if my claim looks grayed out in eServices and says it’s expired?

The PUA program expired on the week ending Sept. 4, 2021. You can’t submit any more PUA weekly claims for weeks after that. However, you might be eligible for a new unemployment claim if your benefit year has ended.

How long can I receive PUA or PEUC benefits?

If you remain eligible for PUA or PEUC and still have weeks available on your claim, the last payable week is the week ending Sept. 4, 2021.

 
If you never applied for PUA but believe you have past weeks to claim
You can apply through Oct. 6, 2021, but the week ending Sept. 4 is still the last payable week for PUA benefits. That means, if you apply any time between Sept. 4 and Oct. 6, 2021, you can backdate your claim. We might ask you why you are filing claims for some weeks late.

 
If you have a claim pending in adjudication or appeal after Sept. 4
Benefits will be available. If we find that you are eligible, we will pay benefits for weeks you claimed through the week ending Sept. 4.

I already submitted documents when I applied for PUA. Do I need to submit more?

You need to submit more only if you received a notice from us asking for more information. If we ask you for more documents, it means that the ones you submitted before were not adequate. You must submit them even though the PUA program ended. 

The federal CARES Act asked PUA applicants to submit documents that verified their 2019 wages. We used that information to potentially increase your weekly benefit amount. Then, the Continued Assistance Act updated the eligibility rules about PUA. It requires those who received PUA payments on Dec. 27, 2020, or after, to prove their work history in 2019 or 2020.

In some cases, the documents people submitted to verify their wages was enough to prove their work history. In other cases, we might need more proof. If so, we’ll ask for it. See the list of required documents on the PUA documents required web page.

What happens if I don’t submit the documents when asked for them?

If you don’t submit the required documents, federal law says that you will have to repay all PUA benefits you received for weeks you claimed Jan. 2, 2021, and later. We don’t want that to happen! Please follow all instructions you receive by letter or in your eServices account. Submit your documents by the deadline!

If you didn’t receive a notice from us, you don’t need to do anything.

Why didn’t ESD tell me about the documents needed when I first applied for PUA?

If we had known about this requirement when we first launched PUA benefits, we would have notified you then. The U.S. Department of Labor updated the requirements later in the federal Continued Assistance Act. We must comply with federal law.

We started telling affected PUA claimants about the new requirement as soon as our computer system was programmed for the change.

How long do I have to submit the required documents?

The notice we send you will include the due date. Those who applied for PUA before Jan. 31, 2021, have 90 days to submit the required documents. Those who applied for PUA on or after that date have 21 days to submit the documents.

In both situations, you can request an extra 14 days. You can request the extension in eServices or by mail. You will need to tell us why you need more time. We will decide if you have a good reason as defined by law for extending your due date.

Can I get more time to submit these documents?

Maybe. You can request an extra 14 days. You will need to tell us why you need more time. We will decide if you have a good reason as defined by law for extending your due date. You can request the extension in eServices or by mail, if you received a paper questionnaire. You can request it only once.

What happens after I submit my documents?

If we approve your benefits, you won’t hear from us.  If we deny your benefits, we will send you a letter. You can appeal our decision if you disagree with it.

Should I keep filing my weekly claims before and after I submit my documents?

Yes. Keep filing your weekly claims on time for all weeks you want to receive benefits. We will pay you for weeks you claim and are eligible. We may deny benefits for weeks you claim late or if you don’t provide adequate documentation. 

I received a notice saying that I needed to apply for a new claim, and I did. Do I still need to respond to the request to submit PUA required documents?

Yes! If you received the notice saying you need to submit required documents, then you must respond! If you don’t submit the required documents, federal law says that you will have to repay all PUA benefits you received for weeks you claimed Jan. 2, 2021, and later.

Regular unemployment insurance

I’m receiving regular unemployment benefits. Does the Sept. 4, 2021 expiration date affect me?

Yes. Your weekly benefits will no longer include the extra $300 per week from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program.

Do I lose benefits when my benefit year ends?

Not necessarily. Go to our benefit year end page for more information.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)

For those completing the Potential New Claim (PNC) alerts: Why does my monetary statement say I have a zero weekly benefit amount?

When following the instructions from the potential new claim (PNC) alert you received, you’re filing a new claim in our benefit system. We use this new claim information and check it against the number of hours you worked in the base year used for calculating benefits.

When we review the new claim, we are looking to see:

  1. If you worked 680 hours in the new base year; AND
  2. If since the separation date from your employer on your prior claim, you returned to work and earned six times the new weekly benefit with bona fide employment.

At that point, if you don’t meet these two qualifications, you receive a statement stating you have a zero-benefit amount.

Then the system moves you back to your previous claim and continues your PEUC benefits. You will receive a second statement a short time later stating the weekly benefit amount on your previous claim.

All of this is necessary because federal law requires us to check, and you to attest, when we receive new information about wages earned which may make you eligible for standard Unemployment Insurance benefits.

And as an important reminder, please keep filing your weekly claims.

 I applied for a new unemployment claim when my PEUC benefits ran out or because I was prompted to apply in my eServices account. But you wanted to keep me on PEUC when those benefits were extended. Why? 

Note: This answer refers to weeks you might have claimed before PEUC expired the week ending Sept. 4, 2021. Although we might still pay you PEUC benefits for weeks in the past, the last payable week for PEUC is the week ending Sept. 4, 2021.

Federal law requires us to make sure we’re paying you unemployment benefits from the right program. Depending on the law, we might need to move you from one program to another.   

You should keep submitting weekly claims on whichever claim shows as Active in eServices. 

If we move you to your new unemployment claim, we will send you a letter called “PEUC Claim Continuation Determination Letter.”  

Specifically, federal law says we must continue to pay you PEUC benefits from your active claim if:    

  • We decide you are eligible.   
  • Your benefit year expired after Dec. 27, 2020.  
  • You have PEUC benefits remaining on that benefit year.  
  • You qualify for a new unemployment claim in Washington or another state, and the weekly benefit amount on that new claim is at least $25 lower than the weekly benefit on your active claim. 

I received a notice saying that I was being moved from PEUC to a regular unemployment claim. Why?

Federal law requires us to make sure we’re paying you unemployment benefits from the right program. Depending on the law, we might need to move you from one program to another. 

Because of this change, you could start receiving a different weekly benefit amount. It could be higher or lower than before.

When you moved my PEUC benefits from one claim to another, you told me I had an overpayment. Do I need to pay it back?

No. You don’t need to repay the amount we overpaid you. We’ll send you a letter called an “Overpayment waiver.” Important note: You still might have an overpayment from a previous or future issue. The overpayment waiver we’re talking about here applies only to when we moved your PEUC benefits from one claim to another.

I’m on PEUC but my benefit year ended or will end soon. What do I do if I still need benefits?

You might be eligible for a new claim. Watch your eServices account and click the link that tells you to file a new claim. Apply for the new claim. 

If you don’t have an eServices account, you can apply for a new unemployment claim by calling the Unemployment Claims Center at 800-318-6022.

I have been exposed to COVID-19

What if I am asked by a medical professional or public health official to quarantine as a result of COVID-19, but I am not sick?

All eligibility decisions must be made on a case-by-case basis. If you are following guidance issued by a medical professional or public health official to isolate or quarantine yourself as a result of exposure to COVID-19 and you are not receiving paid sick leave from your employer, you may be eligible to receive regular unemployment benefits. 

What should I do if I contract COVID-19 on the job?

See information from the Dept. of Labor and Industries information on Workers’ CompensationIf you plan to apply for unemployment benefits, review COVID-19 information on our website.

What is a request to isolate or quarantine?

A request to isolate or quarantine is:

  • A letter documenting a voluntary request or involuntary order to isolate or quarantine from a medical professional, local health official, or the Secretary of Health.
  • A note from your medical provider or medical records office recommending isolation or quarantine.
  • A self-determination that Department of Health’s quarantine guidance applies to you.
  • An order from Gov. Inslee to "Stay Home, Stay Healthy."

Do I qualify for unemployment benefits if I become seriously ill and I am forced to quit my job as a result of COVID-19?

If you are too ill to be able and available for work or to work remotely, you do not qualify for regular unemployment benefits. As with any illness, you could be eligible for Paid Family and Medical Leave if your healthcare provider certifies your illness meets the definition of “serious health condition” and you have the qualifying hours. You can learn more in this Q&A. Once you recover and are again able and available for work, you may qualify for unemployment benefits.  

My work has changed because of COVID-19

If an employer requires vaccinations and an employee refuses to get one, is the employee entitled to unemployment benefits?

When an employee’s separation is the result of failure to comply with an employer’s requirement to become vaccinated, ESD will examine a number of factors. These factors may include when the employer adopted the requirement, whether the employee is otherwise eligible for benefits, the specific terms of the vaccine policy including allowable exemptions, and the reason why the employee did not comply with the vaccine requirement.

For example, when the employer offered religious or medical accommodations, but the employee does not qualify for an accommodation and does not comply with the vaccine requirement, a claim would likely be denied. However, some individuals may still qualify based on their own unique circumstances. ESD will evaluate each case on its own merit.

My employer has shut down operations temporarily because an employee is sick and we have been asked to isolate or quarantine as a result of COVID-19. Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?

It depends. Eligibility is determined on a case-by-case basis. If your employer is paying you sick leave or paid time off (PTO) for full-time work, you will not be eligible for unemployment benefits. If you receive paid sick leave or paid time off for fewer than your normal hours worked, you may qualify for partial benefits. Apply for benefits to find out if you're eligible. 

What if my employer goes out of business as a result of COVID-19? 

If your employer goes out of business and you are out of work due to a lack of work, you may be eligible for regular unemployment benefits. Apply for benefits to find out if you're eligible. 

What if I am temporarily laid off work because business has slowed down as a result of COVID-19?

Eligibility decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. If you are laid off work temporarily or your hours are reduced due to a business slowdown or a lack of demand as a result of COVID-19, you may be able to receive unemployment benefits.

  • Standby is a job search waiver. When it is requested by your employer and approved by the department, it allows workers to collect unemployment benefits without needing to search for work. Claimants and employers may be able to request standby. You can learn more about job search requirements on our job search requirements page.

I am an independent contractor. Am I eligible for unemployment?

Maybe! Coverage under Washington's unemployment insurance law is broader than under most other laws. This means that just because you are classified as an independent contractor under some laws does not mean that you are an independent contractor under Washington's unemployment laws. If you are an independent contractor who has been laid off or lost work, we encourage you to apply for benefits. We will evaluate each application for eligibility on a case by case basis. 

If you decide to apply for benefits, to help speed the process for determining your eligibility and potential benefit amount, please be prepared to gather your payment records from the last tax year to provide to the claims staff.

My existing unemployment claim has been impacted by COVID-19

I received a letter saying that I need to schedule and attend a required appointment with an employment specialist at WorkSource. Do I still need to schedule and attend?

Yes. As of Jan. 11, 2021, you must schedule and attend a virtual online or phone appointment if you receive the letter. The only exception:

  • If you have returned to work full time, you don’t need to schedule the appointment. Before the deadline, you must call or email the WorkSource office listed in your letter. Give us your employer’s name, address, phone number and the date you started work.

If you have returned to work part time, you still need to schedule and attend the virtual online or phone appointment.

Carefully follow instructions in the letter. If you don’t schedule and attend the virtual online or phone appointment, we may deny your unemployment benefits and you may have to repay some or all of the benefits you received.

During your appointment, we will help you with your resume, retraining information, referrals to in-demand jobs, and more. We will make your time worthwhile! Research shows that people who use WorkSource get back to work sooner and earn higher wages than people who don’t.

How am I supposed to meet deadlines related to my existing unemployment claim if I am in isolation or quarantine as a result of COVID-19?

Under the emergency rules we put into place as a result of COVID-19, we are providing more leniency for many unemployment deadlines. Submit your documents as soon as you are able and provide as much information as you can. When we receive them, we will decide if we need to change any previous decisions we made about your benefits.

Progress reports for training programs can be submitted with whatever information you have available. For example, if your school has closed, return your paperwork and tell us.  

How long do I need to wait to be paid if I am eligible for unemployment benefits?

You do not get paid for the first week you are eligible for unemployment benefits. This is called the waiting week. If you remain eligible, we will pay you the following week.

If I’ve been collecting unemployment benefits and either I or a family member gets sick with COVID-19, what options do I have for benefits if I need to recover or must provide care for someone?

If you have been receiving unemployment benefits and are now sick with COVID-19 or need to take care of a loved one who is sick with COVID-19, you may not be considered able and available for work. However, you can also apply for benefits with Paid Family and Medical Leave. To be eligible, a health care provider must certify that you or your family member have a "serious health condition."

You cannot receive both unemployment benefits and Paid Family or Medical Leave during the same week. You need to stop claiming unemployment benefits when you start claiming Paid Family or Medical Leave. You don't need to cancel your unemployment claim. Please visit Paid Family and Medical Leave's website for more information. Eligibility decisions for both unemployment and Paid Family and Medical Leave are made on a case-by-case basis. 

School closures

The school I work at is closed due to COVID-19. Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?

Eligibility decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. If you are being paid while your school is closed, you can apply for benefits, but you may be considered fully employed and not eligible. If your school is not paying you while it is closed, you may be eligible for benefits. You will not be able to use your school wages during a scheduled break if it’s determined you have reasonable assurance to return to work following the break. You must be able and available for work that can be done while following the recommendations from the state Department of Health during each week you claim.

My child’s school is closed due to COVID-19. Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?

It depends. Your first and best option is employer-paid time off because it will pay 100% of your wages. However, if you cannot go to work because you don’t have childcare for your child while school is closed, and you do not have the ability to telework, you should call your employer and let them know why you are absent. If your employer fires you or lays you off while you are absent, you may qualify for benefits. However, you are required to be able and available for work. If you can't do your job remotely and you don't have childcare to enable you to return to your job or accept a work offer, you will not be eligible for regular unemployment benefits.

When is my child’s school considered “closed”?

If your child’s school is using a full-time remote learning model or a hybrid of remote learning and in-person classes, the school is considered closed. If the school is open, but you choose to keep your child home for remote learning, the school is considered open.

I am a substitute teacher who is no longer able to secure work with a school because of the closures. Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?

Eligibility decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. You may be eligible for unemployment. Factors we consider include whether your school is open and, during a scheduled break, whether you have reasonable assurance to return to work with a school employer after the break. You must be able and available for work that can be performed while following the recommendations from the state Department of Health during each week you claim. 

I lost my job and I’m enrolled in college or career school

Am I eligible for benefits? 

It depends. Eligibility decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. The best thing you can do to find out if you’re eligible for benefits is apply. Many people who usually can’t get unemployment benefits now can. Check your eligibility and learn more about Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and the federal CARES Act, which expands unemployment benefits to people impacted by COVID-19.


Returning to work questions

Please visit the Return to work page for a range of resources for workers and employers, including frequently asked questions from workers and information on situations where an employee may decline to return to work.

 

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