To help weather the financial impacts of COVID-19, Employment Security is connecting people to new and existing services.
Have things changed? We updated this page on March 31, 2020. Subscribe for updates about our response to COVID-19.
We’re all in this together.
COVID-19 has created an unprecedented demand for our services—especially unemployment insurance and Paid Family and Medical Leave.
Building capacity. We’re working to increase our capacity by hiring more people and expanding our hours.
Updating technology. Between unprecedented demand and rapid changes, we’re mobilizing our people and updating technology to implement new emergency rules and programs. But unfortunately, technology updates take a few weeks.
Thank you for your patience while we work to serve you better. We know that things are even more frustrating when our systems don’t work the way they should. If you’re having a hard time getting through on the phones, use our web services. If you have a problem that can only be fixed over the phone, please keep trying. Our dedicated experts are here for you, even if they’re hard to reach right now.
Frequently asked questions
Information for workers
For questions about how unemployment, standby, the waiting week, and more have been affected by COVID-19, please see our Q&A for workers.
Information for employers
For businesses looking for updates on how COVID-19 has impacted unemployment insurance, quarterly reporting, and more, please see our Q&A for businesses.
(Updated: March 30, 2020)
Q: I heard there is legislation that has passed to expand unemployment insurance, how does this affect me?
A: This legislation will likely help many people, including people who typically don't qualify for unemployment benefits – including those who don't have the typically required 680 hours. We are evaluating the details and waiting for additional guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor.
Q: What benefits will become available to me?
A: There are a few big changes under this legislation:
- Eligibility for unemployment benefits is expanded to include many Washingtonians currently not eligible, including many self-employed people and those that don’t have the typically required 680 hours.
- An additional $600 per week will be available to everyone on unemployment from March 29 through July 31, 2020.
- Benefits will be extended by 13 weeks, for a maximum of 39 (which is about nine months). This includes people who were already on unemployment as well as those who are newly eligible.
Q: I heard $1,200 will be part of this – when can I expect to get that money?
A: This is a one-time payment to families that earn lower to middle incomes, but it is in no way connected to unemployment. This money will come directly from the federal government. Learn more from the IRS.
Q: I heard an additional $600 will be added to my unemployment payment each week. When will that start?
A: We are working as quickly as possible to update our technology to ensure everyone who is eligible gets the full amount they are owed. We are also waiting on some additional guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor to make some final changes. That means it will take a couple of weeks to update, with a target launch of mid-April. We will backdate your claim so you are paid from the time you separated from your job or otherwise became eligible under the CARES Act.
Q: When will I know the system is updated?
A: The best way to stay up to date is by subscribing to the Employment Security Department’s COVID-19 action alert updates. A link to sign up is on the Employment Security home page at esd.wa.gov.
Q: When should I apply for unemployment?
A: Two things affect the start date for your benefits.
- The date you became unemployed and eligible--not the date you applied or were approved.
- The start date for particular unemployment program, like Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). PUA started March 29, 2020.
- You became unemployed on March 29 but didn't file a claim until April 8.
- You would get regular state and federal PUA benefits going back to March 29.
- You became unemployed and filed a claim on March 6.
- You would only get PUA going back to March 29.
- If you were eligible for unemployment before the federal legislation passed, please apply as soon as you can – taking care to read the information on ESD.WA.GOV beforehand and double-checking your information before submitting your application.
- If you were not eligible for unemployment before the federal stimulus package was passed, we are asking you to wait to file for unemployment because our system is not set up to accept your application. We expect those changes to be complete by mid-April, and the team is working around the clock to get them in place as quickly as possible.
Q: I was already on unemployment; do I still get the extra 13 weeks and $600?
A: Yes. Everyone already on unemployment or going on it during this crisis will have 13 more weeks added to their claim for a maximum of 39 weeks. They will also get $600 on top of what they otherwise are owed.
- The 13 additional weeks are available until Dec. 31, 2020.
- If you've already exhausted your benefits from a claim that expired on or after July 6, 2019:
- Continue to file your weekly claim.
- You will be paid retroactively after our systems are updated for the new federal legislation.
Q: I can’t afford to wait to get paid, I have bills due now. What am I supposed to do?
A: We understand how important it is to get these payments to you as quickly as possible, and we are doing everything we can to get you the help you need. Many options are available to help you and your family in this crisis, many of which you can find on the state coronavirus response website (coronavirus.wa.gov). This includes information about dozens of services available to you and your family – from food, childcare and housing assistance to healthcare options, internet access, legal aid and much more. There are also important emergency measures the Governor has put in place to provide relief to you in this crisis, including
- A temporary moratorium on evictions for renters.
- Help with utilities.
- Cash assistance for families with and without children.
- Free school lunches.
Again – please check out this page on the coronavirus response website for more programs and services available to you and your family.
COVID-19 rulemaking: This page provides links to current emergency rules and rulemaking documents, and will host future information about new or amended rules, public hearings, responses to public comments, and supporting documents for all the Department’s COVID-19 related rulemaking.
COVID-19 action alerts: Subscribe for updates about our response to COVID-19.
- March 31: COVID action alert
Get the most recent updates from Governor Inslee.
Previous updates for workers and businesses
To quote the state Department of Health, “Sharing accurate information during a time of heightened concern is one of the best things we can do to keep rumors and misinformation from spreading.”
- The Washington State Department of Health’s website is the place to go for the best local information about COVID-19 in Washington state.
- If you have questions or concerns related to your health, call the state Department of Health at 800-525-0127, and press #.
- The CDC website is an excellent source of information, including guidelines for businesses.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) has a mythbusters website with advice for the public.
- The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) website has information about community programs and eligibility.
- The Washington Department of Financial Institutions has a list of financial resources for consumers impacted by COVID-19.
- A comprehensive list of state resources is available on the governor's coronavirus page.