Pandemic Unemployment Assistance: Apply now

(en español)

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 makes this possible.

The amount of financial help varies. 

Unsure if you qualify? Start with our eligibility checker.

Check eligibility

Changes coming to the number of weeks available for PUA

Under federal law, additional weeks for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) will reduce beginning the week of November 22, 2020. Go to the benefit extensions page for details.

How to apply

  1. Download this checklist for information you need to apply for regular unemployment benefits.
  2. Download the COVID-19 unemployment guide then apply for regular unemployment benefits, even though you may not qualify for them. Federal law requires this.
  3. Apply for expanded unemployment benefits (called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance).
  4. File weekly claims to get paid.

Step 1: Apply for regular unemployment

To 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.

Key information:

  • 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.

Remember to submit your weekly claim while you are waiting for approval.

Step 2: Apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

(pandemic unemployment assistance)

If you are denied regular benefits, an alert will show up in your eServices account. You then can apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).

Key information:

  • If your application is approved, you will get an amount based on your normal income, and if that amount is at least $1 per week, you will also automatically receive an additional $600 weekly from April 4 to July 25.
  • You may be asked to upload documents such as your federal tax return as proof of income. If asked, you have 21 days to provide the proof.

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.

Key information:

  • The job search requirement is optional, so if you answer “no.” it won't affect your benefits.
  • You will be paid based on the weekly claims you complete. Weekly claims you filed 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.

Ready to apply?

When you’re ready, click the button and complete Step 1. Be sure to take this guide with you when you apply.

Apply for regular unemployment