Avoid the most common unemployment issues
For more tips and details, read the COVID-19 unemployment guide.
- We suggest applying for unemployment within two weeks of losing your job.
You can request to backdate your claim, which would make it start earlier than the date you apply. Keep in mind, if you waited too long before applying, we’re required to find out why. We may need to ask more questions before deciding if we can approve benefits for the backdated weeks.
If you haven’t applied for unemployment recently, watch the tutorial video when setting up your SAW account. It’s not the most intuitive process, especially if there’s a chance you may already have a SecureAccess (SAW) account. Watching this 9-minute video may save you a lot of time.
- Enter your name as it appears on your Social Security card.
For example, if your Social Security card says “Robert T Smith” then enter that. Do not enter Robert Smith or Bob Smith. If you’ve married or changed your legal name but haven’t updated it with the Social Security Administration, enter your prior name as it shows on your card.
- Double check your Social Security number and date of birth before you click “Submit.”
- If you don’t recognize the employers we list for you, double check.
Our records might have a different name for your employer than what you expect. Franchises of larger corporations may use the corporate name for reporting, but a different name locally. Before manually entering your employer’s info, find out your employer’s legal business name or look up their Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). You can usually find this on your paystub or W-2.
- Read questions carefully before answering. These are the questions where issues most often arise:
Able and available to work. This question is about you, not about the current situation. It’s asking if you’re physically able to work, not if your employer or state restrictions allow you to work. If your employer offers you telework, you can answer “yes.” If you refuse telework, you may not be considered available for work, and you should answer "no."
Caregiving due to school or daycare closures. If you can’t go to work or telework from home because you’re providing constant and ongoing help or care to kids due to school or daycare closures, you should answer “no.” Even if you’re not eligible for regular unemployment, you may still be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). If your kids don’t require constant care, or you’re able to telework your normal number of hours with them at home, then you should answer “yes.”
Currently attending school. This question asks if your availability for work is affected by attending school, a training program or an apprenticeship. Only answer “yes” if you are currently attending school, a training program or an apprenticeship (including remotely).
U.S. citizenship and legal right to work. If you’re a U.S. citizen or have a legal right to work in the U.S., make sure you answer “yes.” You’ll have an opportunity to provide your current documents for verification.
It’s okay to select “no” on the job search question. Job search is currently optional. If you’ve been laid off, we still encourage you to look for work during this time, but it’s not required. Selecting no won’t affect your claim. Find the most current info about search requirements on our website at https://esd.wa.gov/unemployment/job-search-requirements.
Workers’ compensation. Unless you’re currently receiving workers’ compensation from the Department of Labor & Industries, do not answer yes to the workers’ compensation question. Even if you were receiving it but no longer are, answer “no.”