These are challenging times for all of us, and especially those who have lost jobs due to the pandemic.

The sudden wave of unemployment has had two big effects:

First, federal and state governments offering historic levels of assistance to those hurt by the pandemic, including unemployment benefits not normally available; if you have lost your job, please check and make sure you’re not overlooking valuable benefits to help get you through these difficult times.

Second, our state Employment Security Department (ESD) call center is being inundated with calls — though ESD is doing its best to add staff, it will take time to hire and train the new hires. So please patient and, if possible, contact ESD online rather than by phone – as is recommended in the following list of resources.

Navigating ESD During COVID-19

ESD is experiencing an increase in calls due to the recent COVID-19 outbreak. To better assist you and your case, please start with this website first if it is accessible to you. ESD can also be reached at 888-836-1900; people who are deaf or hard of hearing can call the Washington Relay Service at 711.

Applying for Unemployment

  1. Apply online if you can and read the helpful information on ESD’s website before you apply.
  2. In particular, review the unemployment application checklist

Recent Changes to Unemployment Insurance

To make Unemployment Insurance as widely available as possible, ESD has been working in conjunction with Gov. Inslee to make the following changes:

  • Allowing more workers to access standby status for longer periods.
  • Making job search requirements optional.
  • Lowering the tax impact to businesses who use ESD programs.
  • Waiving the traditional waiting week.
  • Relaxing penalties and fees for employers and workers who miss deadlines due to the COVID crisis.

Helpful resources

Federal Stimulus Information from ESD

Here are three ways benefits and access to unemployment are expanded:

  1. Many people who don’t usually qualify for unemployment benefits because they are self-employed or don’t have the typically required 680 hours will be covered under this legislation.
  2. An additional $600 each week will be paid to those on unemployment, for up to four months. (Some individuals will also receive $1,200, but that is not connected to unemployment and will come directly from the federal government).
  3. Unemployment benefits will be available for longer, up to 39 weeks (usually it is up to 26 weeks).

I hope you find this information helpful. While we practice social-distancing, it’s also important we stay connected and informed; sign up for ESD’s COVID-19 action alerts for the most up-to-date information and changes.