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OLYMPIA – The job search requirement to receive Unemployment Insurance benefits was made optional on Tuesday, another in a series of measures by Gov. Jay Inslee and the state Employment Security Department to increase access to unemployment benefits for workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Inslee will sign a proclamation, which will then allow the Department to put in place an emergency rule to make the job search requirement optional for all applicants. This measure will be retroactive to March 8, 2020, and will continue until further notice.

“Our top priorities in this crisis are to get benefits out to eligible Washingtonians as quickly as possible, help more people become eligible and help employers who are hiring get the staff they need right now,” said Employment Security Department Commissioner, Suzi LeVine. “Waiving the job search requirement helps make it easier for people to use the benefit. However, by emphasizing that job searches are optional, we hope to encourage those recently laid off to pursue the many jobs we so deeply need filled in our state right now. Especially since Unemployment Insurance is partial wage replacement, we recognize that the best option is for people to obtain a job rather than Unemployment Insurance. We encourage anyone who has been laid off to continue in their job search through WorkSource or other online job search websites.”

Another critical step taken recently to increase access to unemployment benefits was an order by Gov. Inslee to waive the program’s waiting week, allowing payments to start from the first week someone is eligible for the benefit. Gov. Inslee has also requested of the White House an expansion of eligibility for the benefit, which is still under consideration.

More information is available on the Employment Security Department’s website.