Pandemic Unemployment Assistance: Apply now
Many people who usually can’t get unemployment benefits now can.
This means money to help thousands more Washingtonians during the COVID-19 crisis, including:
- Part-time workers and others who have lost work due to COVID-19
- Parents who have lost childcare due to COVID-19
- People at high risk of contracting COVID-19
- People sick or caring for someone with COVID-19
- People who are unemployed due to COVID-19 and are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits
The federal CARES Act extensions make this possible. On Dec. 27, 2020, federal law extended PUA benefits through the week ending March 13, 2021. It also increased the number of weeks you can claim PUA benefits from 39 to 50.
The amount of financial help varies.
Unsure if you qualify? Start with our eligibility checker.
Federal unemployment stimulus
Beginning the week of Jan. 3, 2021, the federal stimulus that changes and extends CARES Act unemployment benefits took effect. The Employment Security Department is working to deliver the newly extended federal benefits as well as Washington’s Pandemic Relief Payment (PRP) program.
We will update the COVID-19 information page with the newest info and sharing on social media. Customers should watch for information 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.
- 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 Jan. 4, 2021)
How to apply
- Download this checklist for information you need to apply for regular unemployment benefits.
- Download the COVID-19 unemployment guide then apply for regular unemployment benefits, even though you may not qualify for them. Federal law requires this.
- Apply for expanded unemployment benefits (called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance).
- File weekly claims to get paid.
Step 1: Apply for regular unemployment
Before we can approve you for expanded benefits, we must first find out if you are eligible for regular unemployment benefits. Please fill out the online application the best you can.
If you are approved for regular unemployment benefits, you will receive normal unemployment payments and you will have the option to extend your benefits if needed. If that happens to you, skip Step 2 and go directly to Step 3.
- Create an account or check to see if you already have one. Watch the tutorial on this page to avoid common issues that could delay your benefits.
- Move to Step 2 if your application for regular benefits is denied. For some this will be immediate. For others it may take a few weeks.
- ESD staff may contact you for more information. Please check your email and answer your phone. If we call, it may be from an unlisted number.
A decision may take time
You can move on to step 2 as soon as you are denied regular unemployment. For some this will be immediate and for others it may take a few weeks. We are required by law to verify you are not eligible for regular unemployment and sometimes this requires we reach out to you for additional information.
Step 2: Apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
If you are denied regular benefits, you may be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). You should receive an alert in your account about applying for this program. If you do not receive an alert about applying for PUA and you receive an alert to apply for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), you will need to complete the PEUC application before you can apply for PUA.
- If your application is approved, your weekly benefit amount will be based on your normal income, up to a maximum of $790.
- You will be asked to upload documents such as your federal tax return as proof of income, which could increase your weekly benefit amount above the minimum of $235.
Step 3: Submit your weekly claim
After applying, start submitting weekly claims right away—even before you’re approved—to get paid faster. The link to submit a weekly claim will be in eServices and will show up when we are ready for you to complete it.
- The job search requirement is currently optional, so if you answer “no,” it won't affect your benefits. But eventually, you will be required to look for a job. Learn more on our job search requirements page.
- You will be paid based on the weekly claims you complete. Weekly claims you submit before being approved will be processed together for an initial lump sum payment. After that, new weekly claims will be processed and paid each week.
- You will receive payment via the method you choose: direct deposit (fastest) or debit card.
- Each week you file for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits, you'll need to answer special questions in addition to regular unemployment questions. More information about these questions can be found in the COVID-19 unemployment guide.
- If you find work, stop filing weekly claims. Your payments will stop.
How much will I receive?
We must verify wage information to determine your correct benefits. This typically takes up to three weeks if there are no issues with your application.
However, to get you money as soon as possible, we will pay you the minimum amount you are eligible for after you are approved and you submit your first weekly claim.
We will review the information you submit as quickly as possible and calculate the total benefits you’re owed. Any money you missed will be paid.