COVID-19 information for workers
Federal unemployment stimulus
On Dec. 27, 2020, the federal stimulus that changes and extends CARES Act unemployment benefits was signed into law. The Employment Security Department is working to deliver Washington’s Pandemic Relief Payment (PRP) program this week and the newly extended federal benefits, which begin the week of Jan. 3.
We’ll be updating this page with the newest info and sharing on social media. Customers should watch for directions about next steps via email and their preferred method of communication, eServices or postal mail.
For now, claimants should:
- Continue filing weekly claims.
- Learn more about filing a weekly PUA claim for the week ending Dec. 26.
- Get updated information on PEUC and EB.
- Watch for updates on esd.wa.gov/covid and messages in eServices.
- Do not call our unemployment claims center with questions—call volume remains high.
If you absolutely must call the claims center about another issue, we encourage you to try throughout the day, and not just at 8 a.m. when we open. That’s when we receive the most calls.
(Updated Dec. 30, 2020)
This page is updated frequently. Check back for the latest information.
Q&As on this page:
• CARES Act benefit extensions
• I have been exposed to COVID-19
• My work has changed because of COVID-19
• My existing claim has been impacted
• School closures
• I lost my job and I’m enrolled in college or career school
Extends Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) through the week ending March 13, 2021. It also increases the number of weeks you can claim PUA benefits from 39 to 50. Previously, PUA was set to expire on Dec. 26, 2020.
Extends Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) through the week ending March 13, 2021. It also increases the number of weeks you can claim PEUC benefits from 13 to 24. Previously, PEUC was set to expire on Dec. 26, 2020.
Provides new Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefits. FPUC pays an additional $300 per week for eligible claimants. This extra money applies only to claimants eligible for benefits from the week ending Jan. 2, 2021 to the week ending March. 13, 2021. We’ll issue a payment on Jan. 14, 2021, for the weeks covering the weeks ending Jan. 2 and Jan. 9. See the Q&A below about the extra $300.
CARES Act extensions
Why do I see a new issue under my “Decisions status” tab called “Waiting Week” with instructions to “Contact agency for appeal”?
The first week you are eligible for benefits is called your waiting week. You don’t get paid for your waiting week. Due to the pandemic, your waiting week was waived if your claim’s first payable week was the week ending March 14, 2020, through the week ending Jan. 2, 2021. The waiting week was reinstated and now applies if your claim’s first payable week was the week ending Jan. 9, 2021, or later.
In order to determine which claims should have a waiting week and which should not, our computer system scanned all current claims. As a result, you may notice a new issue listed under the Decisions status tab in eServices called “Waiting Week” with instructions to “Contact the agency for appeal.”
This issue will not affect your future payments and you don’t need to appeal. If we find an issue with your waiting week that requires action, we will send you a letter.
Why haven’t I received my PUA benefits for the week ending Dec. 26, 2020?
On Dec. 31, 2020, we verified an issue that caused delayed payments for some claimants receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). The issue is being corrected and PUA claimants should see their status go to “Paid” the evening of Dec. 31.
When the federal stimulus was not signed into law before PUA benefits expired, we had to re-program the system to stop payment at their expiration. In this programing, an error occurred that prevented payments from processing on PUA claims for the week ending Dec. 26. We were unable to immediately verify the error. This issue is being fixed the evening of Dec. 31, and eligible claimants will be in “Paid” status. Funds will be available as soon as your bank processes the payment. More information is available in this alert.
I am receiving PEUC but applied for Extended Benefits (EB) when I was prompted to because PEUC was expiring. Now that it isn’t expiring, will my EB application affect my benefits?
Submitting an application for EB will not affect your PEUC benefits this week or moving forward. Just submit your weekly claim as usual and look out for more information soon from us in eServices. If you are nearing the end of the 13 weeks of PEUC, submit your EB application and we will send you more information soon about next steps.
Why is there a new alert telling me to “apply for a COVID-19 PUA claim” in my eServices account?
You do not need to click the link, but it is not a problem if you did click the link and fill out a new application. The link appeared because the new federal stimulus was signed into law after the PUA & PEUC programs expired, and we needed it to reprogram our computer system. Your benefits will not be affected as long as you continue to submit your weekly claim this week as usual. This link will go away soon when we update the system.
Will I experience a gap in my benefits between the time the old CARES Act expired and the CARES Act extensions take effect?
Most claimants receiving PUA and PEUC will not experience any gap in their benefits. However, we are still awaiting guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor to fully implement this new law. Keep checking our COVID-19 page for the most up-to-date information. If you are a PUA claimant, also see the question about a payment gap in the section below.
What should I do if I’m currently receiving benefits from any benefit programs: Regular unemployment, PUA, PEUC or EB?
The best thing you can do is to keep submitting your weekly claims. That will put you in the best position to receive the benefit extensions once we’ve implemented the changes. We’ll have more info and instructions for you soon.
What should I do if I’ve already used up all my benefits?
Keep submitting your weekly claims, even though you might have exhausted all benefits on your claim. Our computer system will automatically send you a notice saying that you won’t receive benefits because your claim is expired, but please be patient. We understand your situation. We’re working with the U.S. Department of Labor to answer your question. As soon as possible, we will reach out to you directly and provide updates on our website and through social media.
In the meantime, keep checking our COVID-19 page for the most up-to-date information.
When will I start receiving the extra $300 per week?
We’ll start processing the first payment on Jan. 14, 2021, for the weeks ending Jan. 2 and Jan. 9, if you were eligible to receive benefits for those weeks. If your claim is still being processed for those weeks, we will pay you the extra $300 when we determine you are eligible to receive benefits for those weeks. We will include future payments with your normal unemployment benefits, until the program ends the week ending March 13, 2021. You’ll receive the payment as soon as your bank processes it, which takes a few days.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
Will I still receive the one-time $550 payment that Gov. Inslee announced on Dec. 27?
- You submitted a Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claim for benefits for the week ending Nov 21, 2020, and
- We paid you for that week on or before Dec. 24.
See the Pandemic Relief Payment page for more information.
Will I experience a gap in my PUA benefit payments?
No. We will continue paying you for each week you're eligible without a break. You don't need to reapply. Just keep submitting your weekly claims.
If you ran out of benefits before Dec. 26, 2020 (when the CARES Act expired), we can't pay you benefits for any weeks between then and when the new CARES Act extensions took effect. For example, if your PUA benefits ran out on the week ending Dec. 19, we are not permitted to pay you benefits for the week ending Dec. 26. You can submit weekly claims for the weeks ending Jan. 2 and after, until the extension ends. We will pay you for those weeks as long as you remain eligible.
How do I submit a PUA weekly claim if my claim looks grayed out in eServices and says it’s expired?
This is temporary as we work through the new CARES Act legislation. You should continue submitting your weekly PUA claims by clicking on the alert in eServices that says "You have a weekly PUA claim to file." Your PUA claim account status will change back to active as soon as we are able to update the system.
How long can I receive PUA or PEUC benefits under the Act?
If you remain eligible for PUA or PEUC and still have weeks available on your claim, you can receive benefits until the week ending March 13. We are waiting for additional guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor about additional weeks of benefits.
Regular unemployment insurance
I’m receiving regular unemployment benefits. Do the new CARES Act extensions affect me?
Yes. As long as you remain eligible, you’ll receive the extra $300 in weekly benefits. We will issue a payment for the first two weeks on Jan. 15, 2021. You will receive the payment as soon as your bank processes it. Sometimes that takes a few days. After that, we will issue payments weekly.
Does the new Act extend the number of weeks of Extended Benefits?
No. Federal law uses the state's unemployment rate to set the number of weeks available under EB. The CARES Act extensions do not affect EB.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
Why haven’t I started receiving the new Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits?
An additional 11 weeks of PEUC benefits were made available for eligible unemployment claimants under the recent CARES Act extension. Some individuals have experienced a delay in payments while we work to update our systems to include the new benefits. The law around the additional PEUC benefits is very complex and we needed more guidance from the federal government before we could fully implement the additional weeks. We know this is frustrating and appreciate your patience. We will begin processing the payments by the end of January. The most important thing you can do is keep filing your weekly claims. You will be paid retroactively for any weeks you were eligible.
There are different situations that could be affecting your PEUC or Extended Benefits (EB):
- If you ran out of the original 13 weeks of PEUC and haven’t applied for EB yet, you should apply for EB. You’ll receive EB benefits for any weeks you are eligible, including any past weeks. Look for “Request extended benefits” in the Alerts section in eServices.
- If you ran out of the original 13 weeks of PEUC and EB, we are working quickly to update our system and expect to start processing payments for the additional 11 weeks of PEUC by the end of January. Keep filing weekly claims.
- If you ran out of PEUC and EB before Dec. 26, 2020 (when the CARES Act expired), by law we can't pay you benefits for any weeks between when you ran out and when the new CARES Act extensions took effect. For example, if your PEUC and EB ran out the week ending Dec. 19, we are not permitted to pay you benefits for the week ending Dec. 26. You can submit weekly claims for the weeks ending Jan. 2 and after, until the extension ends. We will pay you for those weeks as long as you remain eligible. Keep filing weekly claims.
I was receiving Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), but my benefits ran out or are about to run out. What should I do?
You can apply for Extended Benefits (EB). And if your PEUC benefits haven’t run out yet, you can continue to submit weekly PEUC claims, even if you have also applied for EB.
If you have an eServices account, a link to apply for EB should appear on your home page within two weeks of running out of PEUC.
How does this new law affect my Trade Act benefits?
We don’t know yet. Keep checking our COVID-19 page for the most up-to-date information.
I have been exposed to COVID-19
What if I need to take time off work because I contract COVID-19?
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.
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 or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits.
What should I do if I contract COVID-19 on the job?
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. 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.
My work has changed because of COVID-19
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. Use our eligibility checker to learn more about whether you may qualify for regular unemployment or expanded benefits under the CARES Act.
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. Download this checklist to prepare to apply for unemployment.
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. 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.
I am a gig worker. 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 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.
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?
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.
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, 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.
How long do I need to wait to be eligible for unemployment benefits?
In response to COVID-19, Governor Inslee waived the customary one-week time period before you can start collecting unemployment benefits (this "waiting week" is used to determine your eligibility). However, this waiver expired on Dec. 28, 2020. As a result, if your unemployment claim has an effective date of Jan. 3, 2021, or later, you will not receive payment 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.
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 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.
Why am I getting letters that tell me different information than the website?
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. 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.
The school I work at is closed due to the Governor’s order to close. 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 the Governor’s order to close. 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 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.
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. 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.
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.
Return to COVID-19 Page