WA Cares Fund overview
Table of Contents
Last updated: January 31, 2023
The WA Cares Fund is a mandatory long-term care insurance benefit established by Washington state law in 2019. Starting July 1, 2026, benefits can be used to purchase long-term care services which may include professional care, equipment, home safety evaluations, and/or compensation for family members who provide care.
Mandatory employee payroll deductions begin July 1, 2023
The WA Cares Fund will be supported by a premium paid by employees only. The premium has been set by state law at 0.58% of gross wages, or $0.58 per $100. For example, if an employee earns $50,000 annually, the total annual premium is $290 or $12.08 per paycheck. Employee payroll deductions begin July 1, 2023, which means you will see the first payroll deduction on the July 10, 2023 paycheck.
Paid time off, including vacation, sick time off, and associated cash outs, are included in wages except when those are considered Paid Family & Medical Leave supplemental benefit payments provided by UW. Premiums are collected on employees whose work is located in Washington State.
The benefit provided will be based on the number of “benefit units” that an employee has earned. Each “benefit unit” will equal $100 in 2026, with units increasing in value as time goes on. An employee earns benefit units through payroll premium deductions, and there is a limit of 365 benefit units that an employee can earn. The initial maximum value will equal $36,500 in 2026.
In order to be eligible for WA Cares Fund benefits, an employee must have worked and contributed to the fund for:
- A total of 10 years without an interruption of five or more consecutive years; or
- Three of the last six years at the time you apply for the WA Cares Fund benefit; and
- Worked at least 500 hours per year.
Additionally, to be eligible for benefits an employee must be at least 18 years old and a current resident of Washington.
As an exception to the above, individuals born before January 1, 1968 who may have paid into the WA Cares Fund for less than the number of years listed above may qualify for pro-rated benefits. UW will share additional information about the partial benefit once available.
Exemptions from the WA Cares Fund
Beginning January 1, 2023, Washingtonians may be eligible for a permanent or conditional exemption from the WA Cares Fund. An employee with a permanent exemption from the WA Cares Fund premium is permanently ineligible from receiving benefits under the program and cannot rejoin the program at a later date. An employee with a conditional exemption does not contribute premiums to the program while their conditional exemption is in effect.
Applications for an exemption are submitted to the Employment Security Department (ESD) and approved or denied by ESD based on criteria established in state law. Applications are available on an on-going basis. ESD provides information on how to apply for an exemption on the WA Cares Fund Exemptions webpage, including a description of documentation that may be required.
Employees with an approved permanent or conditional exemption must inform UW of their exemption and provide a copy of their ESD exemption letter in order to ensure premiums are not deducted from their paycheck. The sections below provide more information on permanent and conditional exemptions, the application process, and how to inform UW of an approved exemption.
Employees may apply for a permanent exemption from the WA Cares Fund if they are veterans with a 70% or higher service-connected disability. If approved by ESD, they will receive a permanent exemption from the WA Cares Fund.
Conditional exemption based on individual status
Starting January 1, 2023 individuals may qualify for a conditional exemption if they are:
- employed by a WA employer but their primary and permanent residence is outside of WA state;
- temporarily working in WA on a nonimmigrant visa;
- a spouse or registered domestic partner of an active-duty military member.
If there is a change in the circumstances that qualified an employee for a conditional exemption, they are no longer eligible for a conditional exemption and must notify ESD and the UW within 90 days of the change. UW must begin collecting premiums as required by state law. Individuals will be liable for owed premiums if they experience a change in status but do not inform ESD or their employer. A change in status would include changing a permanent residence to within Washington state from out-of-state, becoming a permanent U.S. resident, having a spouse or registered domestic partner leave service in military and/or the marriage or domestic registered partnership ending.
For more information, view ESD’s Exemptions webpage.
Applying for a WA Cares Fund premium exemption and notifying UW of an approved exemption
- Follow the instructions provided by the WA Cares Fund at https://wacaresfund.wa.gov/apply-for-an-exemption/ to:
- Create a Secure Access Washington (SAW) account or log-in with your SAW account if you already have one.
- Add “Paid Family and Medical Leave” to your SAW account.
- Create a WA Cares Exemption account.
- Submit your application.
- If approved, ESD will provide you with an approval letter that includes an effective date. Note: The approval letter is different from status update emails from ESD you may receive.
- You are required to notify the UW of your exemption and provide a copy of your exemption approval letter. ESD does not notify UW of your premium exemption. It is your responsibility to notify UW.
- Initial exemptions will take effect the calendar quarter after your application is approved, and only if you notify UW of your exemption.
- Failure to notify UW of an exemption means non-refundable premiums might be deducted after an exemption’s effective date.
- Notify UW of your premium exemption by completing the webform and attaching a copy of your premium exemption letter. Access the webform here: ISC-Payroll secure webform.
To verify that you have an approved ESD exemption, log-into your SAW account and select “Paid Family and Medical Leave” to view your WA Cares exemption.
To verify that you notified ISC of an approved exemption, ISC suggests checking your email for a message confirming your exemption was processed. You may also contact ISC.
UWHR has published a UWHR WA Cares Fund FAQs webpage. More information about the WA Cares Fund is available on ESD’s WA Cares Fund website and on Department of Social and Health Services’ (DSHS) LTSS website. DHSS has also published this one-page overview.
Premium collection began January 1, 2022. A change in law delayed the start of premium collection to July 1, 2023 and directed employers to stop deducting premiums and issue refunds to employees. As provided for in state law, until December 31, 2022 individuals who had purchased private long-term care insurance prior to November 1, 2021 were able to apply for a permanent exemption.