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Frequently asked questions about unemployment benefits - October 3, 2014

Many of your questions can be answered by refering to The Handbook for Unemployed Workers (PDF, 2MB)


General

Q.

What are unemployment-insurance benefits?

A.

Unemployment benefits partially replace your regular earnings and help you meet expenses while you look for another job. They are not based on financial need. While receiving benefits, it’s your responsibility to get back to work as quickly as you can.


Q.

How do I apply for benefits by phone?

A.

Call the claims center at 800-318-6022 (TTY 800-365-8969) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.


Q.

How long can I get benefits?

A.

Your claim is good for a "benefit year," which is 52 weeks, beginning with the week you file your application. You cannot file a new claim in Washington until your benefit year is over, even though you may have received all of your benefits. Most claims receive between 13 to 26 weeks of benefits.


Q.

How much will my weekly check be?

A.

Several things are taken into account to determine your weekly check amount. See our how much will I receive page for more information.



Q.

May I have my benefits deposited directly into my bank account?

A.

Yes. If you apply online for a new claim, you’ll be offered the option of direct deposit. If you are already claiming benefits, or if you re-open a previous claim, you can sign up online.



Q.

How do I stop claiming unemployment insurance benefits? Do I need to let you know I returned to work?

A.

You don’t have to tell us you’ve returned to work. The way to stop your claim is simple: just stop filing your weekly claims.

You may stop claiming at any time during your benefit year and resume claiming the balance of your benefits until your benefit year ends if you meet all eligibility requirements.

However, if you stop claiming, even for one week, your claim becomes inactive and you must reopen your claim during the first week you are eligible and want to begin claiming again.

If your WorkSource office requests information about you returning to work, please respond to them.



Q.

Can I still claim weekly benefits if I am moving out of Washington state?

A.

Yes. If you are currently filing weekly claims in Washington, file a change of address after you move. You can do this:
  • Online; or
  • By calling 800-318-6022.

Continue to file your weekly claims as you do now. Although you are living in a different state, Washington will continue to pay you benefits.

You must register for work in your local area.  Go online to find your local employment center.



Q.

How do I file a claim if I have moved or am going to move out of Washington state?

A.

If you worked in Washington, you may choose to file a new Washington claim online or by calling the claims center. You can do this either before or after you move.

If you worked in Washington and another state(s) in the past two years, you might have a better claim if you apply for a new claim against Washington and combine your wages from the other state(s). If so, you must call the claims center to file this type of claim. You may not use the online application to file a combined wage claim. You must have wages in Washington in order to file a combined wage claim against Washington.

If you collect unemployment benefits from Washington, you must register for work in the new state. Go online to find the nearest local employment office or check the government pages of your local telephone directory.

After you move, file a change of address.

If you have specific questions, call the claims center.


Q.

How do I file a claim if I did not work in Washington state?

A.

As of January 11, 2009, you cannot file a new Washington state unemployment claim if you did not work in Washington during the base year.  The only exception to this rule is if you were in the military or worked for the federal government.

To file an unemployment claim, you must file your claim with one of the state(s) where you worked in the last two years. Contact each state where you worked to find out your claim options for those states.


Q.

Where can I get a Handbook for Unemployed Workers (e.g., unemployment benefits manual)?

A.

You may read or download the handbook from our website. If you need a hard-copy version, you can pick up a copy at your local WorkSource office or contact the unemployment claims center and speak to a claims agent (800-318-6022). (Note: To save money, we no longer mail the handbook to everyone who applies for benefits.)


Q.

What is a customer identification number?

A.

To help reduce identity theft, we removed your Social Security number (SSN) from most of the unemployment documents we send you. We replaced your SSN with a customer identification number (ID).

You must still use your SSN when using the Internet or calling the claims center and Automated Claims Line.



Eligibility requirements

Q.

Do I have to accept any job that is offered?

A.

You do not have to look for or accept work that is not suitable. Work is not suitable if:
  • The work is not in line with your training and experience. (After a period of time, any job you are qualified to do may become suitable work.)
  • You must join or resign from a labor union.
  • The hours or working conditions are not as favorable as most other jobs in your occupation in your area.
  • The work is farther than the usual commuting distance for people in your occupation in your area.
  • The wages offered are lower than the wages common for that occupation in your area.
  • The work is unreasonably dangerous.
  • You cannot physically do the work.
  • The work would offend your religious beliefs or moral conscience.



Q.

I didn't work last week. Can I backdate my claim?

A.

If you file your claim using the Internet, the effective date is the Sunday of the week you file. If you want to claim for any back weeks, you need to call the claims center and ask to backdate your claim. Depending on your circumstances, your backdate request may be approved or denied.


Q.

Can I volunteer while I am job searching and collecting unemployment benefits?

A.

While you collect unemployment benefits, you can make a positive difference in your life and in your community by volunteering your time and skills to help others.  Volunteer work builds experience for your résumé and expands your list of community employment contacts. It may even be seen as a positive reflection on your personal values.

The skill sets you use and learn in volunteer work could turn into a job offer or a career change in the future.  Volunteering will not affect your unemployment benefits as long as you meet the regular work-search and availability requirements.  For more information about volunteering, go to www.volunteerwashington.org or www.serve.gov.



Earnings

Q.

What do I do if I didn't report my earnings or if I incorrectly reported them?

A.

Call the claims center for assistance as soon as possible.



Q.

Can I collect unemployment benefits if I work part-time?

A.

If you work part-time, we reduce your benefits using the earnings deduction chart (gross earnings minus $5 times 75 percent).

You must still meet the job-search requirements while working part-time.

If you did not work more than 17 hours in any week in your base period, you may need to look for only part-time work.

Working part-time usually extends the number of weeks you can draw benefits. Additional earnings also may help you qualify for a new claim when your benefit year ends.



Q.

When do I report my holiday or vacation pay?

A.

Report the holiday pay when you claim the week in which the holiday occurred. Do not wait until you are paid for the holiday to report it.

If your vacation pay was accrued and there are no specific dates attached to it, you do not need to report it. However, if your vacation pay was for specific days, it is deductible and you need to report it. Be sure to report it for the week(s) in which the vacation days occurred.

If you are in doubt or have any questions, call the claims center for help.



Q.

How does severance pay, pay in lieu of notice or continuation pay affect my benefits?

A.

Severance payments do not usually affect your unemployment benefits. However, pay in lieu of notice or continuation pay with full benefits that are guaranteed can affect your benefits. Report any separation-related payments you receive or are entitled to receive to the claims center.

Payments are considered severance pay when:

  • The payments are not assigned to any period after your date of separation from your employer.
  • You are not on call or in any way required to be available to your employer in order to receive these benefits.
  • Your fringe benefits do not continue to accrue (vacation, retirement, sick, etc).
  • You accept a new job and it does not affect your severance pay.



Internet Application

Q.

Why isn't the reason for my job separation on the drop-down list in the Internet application?

A.

You have a limited number of options to tell us why you are no longer employed. Choose the one that best describes your situation. If you cannot locate a description that best describes your situation, you might want to call the claims center to file your claim.

Examples:

Situation Choose
I told my employer "I quit." Quit
Employer let me go or replaced me. Fired/Discharged
I'm unemployed due to a lockout or strike (not an argument between me and my employer). Labor Dispute/Strike
I'm filing to lock-in or freeze my claim. Still Employed (does not waive work search)
My employer has no work available, my job was eliminated or business closed. Lack of Work
I (or my employer) requested a leave of absence. I'm guaranteed work at the end of my leave of absence. Leave of Absence
I was fired for a felony or gross misdemeanor in the past two years. Felony/Gross Misdemeanor
My hours were reduced to less than my customary full-time hours with my regular employer. I will have wages to report each week. Partially Unemployed



IRS

Q.

Are my unemployment benefits taxable?

A.

Yes. Federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) income-tax law does not require us to withhold taxes from your weekly unemployment benefits. However, you may choose to have 10 percent of your weekly benefits deducted for income-tax purposes.

You may avoid a large tax bill if you choose to have income taxes withheld from your benefits.

We cannot refund any money we withhold for income-tax purposes. If we overpay you and the payment includes an IRS deduction, you will have to repay the benefits you received, along with the amount we withheld and sent to the IRS.

If you did not tell us to deduct 10 percent and you would now like us to, call the claims center.

You can stop the deduction for taxes from your weekly benefits at any time by calling the claims center. However, only the IRS can refund your withholdings for income tax and only if you qualify for a refund on your annual federal income-tax return.



Q.

What is on my 1099 form - Statement for Recipients of Unemployment Compensation Payments?

A.

The amount shown on the 1099-G form includes all benefits paid to you during the previous tax year. The total also includes benefits you may have paid back because of an overpayment. If you repaid benefits, you do not include the amount repaid in the total you report to the IRS on your tax return. However, you need to make this adjustment when you file your tax return.

In January, we mailed a copy to each person who was paid unemployment benefits during the previous calendar year.

Access the information online.

Call for automated information over the phone.

Additional information about the 1099-G is also available.



Layoffs, lockouts and labor disputes

Q.

I’m being “furloughed” one day a month without pay over the next year. Am I eligible for unemployment benefits for the days I’m off?

A.

Unemployment benefits are determined on a weekly basis. As a general rule, people who normally work full-time whose hours of work are reduced by one work day in a week will not be eligible for benefits – they still earn too much in that week to be eligible.

Estimate your weekly unemployment benefit amount then use the earnings deduction chart to see if the one-day reduction in your gross pay makes you eligible for any benefits.

We decide eligibility on a case-by-case basis. Anyone has a right to file an application for benefits and claim weekly benefits. When we have all the facts we will determine eligibility.


Q.

I am a state park employee.  I've been moved from full-time employment to summer work only.  Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?

A.

You may be eligible for unemployment benefits while you are off.  You must meet all eligibility requirements, including looking for new work while you are off. 

"Seasonal" workers are not eligible for standby.


Q.

Am I eligible for unemployment benefits if I’m locked out due to a strike or labor dispute?

A.

It depends on the circumstances. For more information on labor disputes, read these additional frequently asked questions.



Q.

What can I do if my employer is planning a layoff?

A.

Your employer may qualify for the Shared-Work Program.



Questions

Q.

If I still have questions, what should I do?

A.

You are welcome to email or call us at 800-318-6022 with your questions.



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