COVID-19 information for workers
Unemployment eligibility checker: If you're out of work, and not sure if you're eligible for unemployment benefits, please use the Unemployment eligibility checklist for information about your possible eligibility.
CARES ACT (federal stimulus)
The CARES Act (federal stimulus) was passed by Congress in March 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It included several programs to support unemployed workers, including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). More information about these programs are available on the main COVID-19 Page.
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.
This Q&A is updated frequently. Check back for the latest information.
On this page:
Q: What if I need to take time off work because I contract COVID-19?
A. The first and best option for employees who need to miss work due to COVID-19 is to use their employer-paid time off because this can pay 100% of wages. Labor and Industries has information about Paid Sick Leave. When this leave is not available, Paid Family and Medical Leave or federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance may be available to help. Use our eligibility checker to determine if you might be eligible.
Q: 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?
A. 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 or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits.
Q: What should I do if I contract COVID-19 on the job?
A. See information from the Dept. of Labor and Industries information on Workers’ Compensation. If you plan to apply for unemployment benefits, you can review our eligibility checker and other COVID-19 information on our website.
Q: What is a request to isolate or quarantine?
A: 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."
Q. 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?
A. If you are too ill to be able and available for work or to work remotely, you do not qualify for regular unemployment benefits. However, you may qualify for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance while you are sick. 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.
Q: 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?
A. 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. Use our eligibility checker to learn more about whether you may qualify for regular unemployment or expanded benefits under the CARES Act.
Q: What if my employer goes out of business as a result of COVID-19?
A. 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. Download this checklist to prepare to apply for unemployment.
Q: What if I am temporarily laid off work because business has slowed down as a result of COVID-19?
A. 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. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, job search requirements are currently suspended, which means it is not necessary for claimants or employers to request standby. Once job search requirements are reinstated, claimants and employers may be able to request up to 12 weeks of standby. You can learn more about job search requirements on our job search requirements page.
Q: I am a gig worker. Am I eligible for unemployment?
A: 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 a gig worker 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 are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits, you may be eligible for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
We realize that there are some challenges with the online application because it was not designed for the way gig workers work. For now, fill it out the best that you can.
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.
Q: What documents should I upload if I am self-employed, am an independent contractor, or work with a business that doesn't report my hours and wages to ESD?
A: Here are examples of documents you can upload:
- 1040 – Single Filing
- 1040 – Joint Filing
- 1065 Schedule K-1
- Schedule C
- Schedule F
To be clear, these must be for 2019. We cannot use 2018 information. Even if you have not filed the forms with the IRS yet, due to the extension, please send ESD the 2019 information.
Q: I received a letter to attend a mandatory Re-employment services appointment. Do I still need to schedule and attend?
A: Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, we have temporarily suspended the requirement for individuals to attend a mandatory Re-employment Services appointment. If you receive a letter about this, you do not need to attend. There will be no impact to your unemployment benefits. However, WorkSource is still available to assist you with your re-employment efforts and many employers are hiring. Visit WorkSourceWA.com to search and apply for jobs, sign-up for virtual workshops, and to access LiveChat features.
Q: 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?
A. Under the emergency rules we put into place as a result of COVID-19, we are providing more leniency for many unemployment deadlines, such as deadlines for training programs. Submit your documents as soon as you are able and provide as much information as you can. 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.
Q: How long do I need to wait to be eligible for unemployment benefits?
A. In response to COVID-19, Governor Inslee has waived the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits. This means you can be eligible for UI benefits the first week of your claim. The average unemployment claim is approved with no issues and benefits become available 1-3 weeks after you apply. Other claims require more research to reach a decision on whether you’ll receive benefits and could take a little longer. Continue to file weekly claims during this time.
Q: 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?
A. 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 may be eligible for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. You also can apply for benefits with Paid Family and Medical Leave. You cannot receive both unemployment benefits (regular or pandemic) and Paid Family and Medical Leave during the same week. You need to stop claiming unemployment benefits when you start receiving Paid Family and Medical Leave. Cancellation of your unemployment claim is not necessary. Please visit Paid Family and Medical Leave's website for more information. If you receive Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits for fewer than your normal work hours, federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance may be available for the difference in hours. Eligibility decisions for both unemployment and Paid Family and Medical Leave are made on a case-by-case basis.
Q: Why am I getting letters that tell me different information than the website?
A: Because of the COVID-19 crisis, requirements to look for work, request standby, and attend some WorkSource appointments have been temporarily suspended. Our automated letters haven’t been changed yet. You don’t have to worry about work search and standby letters, or RESEA appointment letters after April 17. Make sure to read and follow the instructions on all other letters you get.
The first and best option for workers affected by school closures is employer-paid time off. When that is not an option, Employment Security may be able to help by providing access to unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefits can provide a partial wage replacement as a last resort. Below is information for teachers, school administrative staff, school support staff (i.e., janitors, cafeteria workers, bus drivers), and those with children impacted by school closures.
Q: The school I work at is closed due to the Governor’s order to close. Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?
A. 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.
Q: My child’s school is closed due to the Governor’s order to close. Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?
A. 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 that can be performed while following the recommendations from the state Department of Health each week you collect unemployment benefits. If you do not have childcare to enable you to return to your job or accept a work offer, you will not be eligible for regular unemployment benefits, but you may be eligible for benefits under Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) a part of the federal CARES Act. Let us know if your situation changes.
Q: When is my child’s school considered “closed”?
A: 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.
Q. 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?
A. 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. Or you could be eligible for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Take a look at the eligibility checker on the "unemployment" page of the website for more on whether you can be eligible for expanded benefits under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance part of the CARES Act.
Q: Am I eligible for benefits?
A. 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.
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