CARES Act frequently asked questions

Q: I heard there is legislation that has passed to expand unemployment insurance, how does this affect me?

A: This legislation will likely help many people, including people who typically don't qualify for unemployment benefits – including those who don't have the usually required 680 hours. We are working as quickly as possible to implement the changes under the federal legislation and are targeting April 18 to have the expanded benefits ready.

Q: How will I know if I’m eligible for these benefits?

A: Eligibility is made on a case by case basis, but you can use our Eligibility Checker to better understand who should apply. Sign up for COVID-19 action alerts for updates about when and how to apply.

Q: What benefits will become available to me?

A: There are a few big changes under this legislation:

  • Eligibility for unemployment benefits is expanded to include many Washingtonians currently not eligible, including many self-employed people and those that don’t have the typically required 680 hours.
  • An additional $600 per week will be available to nearly everyone on unemployment from March 29 through week ending July 25.
  • Benefits will be extended by 13 weeks, for a maximum of 39 (which is about nine months). This includes people who were already on unemployment as well as those who are newly eligible.

Q: I heard $1,200 will be part of this – when can I expect to get that money?

A: This is a one-time payment to families that earn lower to middle incomes, but it is in no way connected to unemployment. This money will come directly from the federal government. Learn more from the IRS.

Q: I heard an additional $600 will be added to my unemployment payment each week. When will that start?

A: Under the federal CARES Act, nearly everyone on unemployment will receive an additional $600 per week for up to four months. We are working as fast as we can to implement these changes in our system and you will start receiving that extra money in mid-April. You won't lose out on payments though - once the system is updated they will be provided retroactive from the time the legislation went into effect on March 29.

Q: When will I know the system is updated?

A: We are updating our technology on Saturday, April 18. The claims center will be closed and eServices will be not be available from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on that day. Individuals who are self-employed and part-time workers with less than 680 hours will be able to apply for benefits after 8 p.m. on Saturday. Instructions and more information are coming very soon. Sign up for COVID-19 action alerts and check this page for updates before you apply to avoid mistakes which could delay your benefits.

Q: When should I apply for unemployment?

A: We are asking only those eligible for regular unemployment, not those newly eligible under the federal CARES Act, to apply as soon as possible. If you became eligible when unemployment was expanded by the federal government in response to COVID-19 (under the CARES Act) please do not apply until after April 18 when our system is updated. You will be paid retroactively after our systems are updated for the new federal legislation.

Take a look at this handy eligibility checker to learn more about your eligibility and when to apply.

Important: Being prepared to apply will help the process go smoother so you get paid faster. Please read the information on the Unemployment page before applying and double-check your information before submitting your application.

Q: I was already on unemployment; do I still get the extra 13 weeks and $600?

A: Nearly everyone already on unemployment or going on it during this crisis will have 13 more weeks added to their claim for a maximum of 39 weeks. Most will also get $600 on top of what they otherwise are owed.

  • The 13 additional weeks are available for weeks of unemployment through Dec. 26, 2020.
  • If you've already exhausted your benefits from a claim that expired on or after July 6, 2019:
    • Continue to file your weekly claim.
    • You will be paid retroactively after our systems are updated for the new federal legislation.

Q: I can’t afford to wait to get paid, I have bills due now. What am I supposed to do?

A: We understand how important it is to get these payments to you as quickly as possible, and we are doing everything we can to get you the help you need. Many options are available to help you and your family in this crisis, many of which you can find on the state coronavirus response website (coronavirus.wa.gov). This includes information about dozens of services available to you and your family – from food, childcare and housing assistance to healthcare options, internet access, legal aid and much more. There are also important emergency measures the Governor has put in place to provide relief to you in this crisis, including

  • A temporary moratorium on evictions for renters.
  • Help with utilities.
  • Cash assistance for families with and without children.
  • Free school lunches.

Again – please check out this page on the coronavirus response website for more programs and services available to you and your family.

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