Benefits

WA Cares Fund overview

This page was updated November 4, 2021.

The WA Cares Fund is a mandatory long-term care insurance benefit established by Washington state law in 2019. Starting January 2025, 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.

The WA Cares Fund is not a leave program, but it can be used at the same time as a leave, including Paid Family & Medical Leave (PFML), and insurance, including long-term disability insurance.

Mandatory employee payroll deductions begin January 1, 2022

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 January 1, 2022, which means you will see the first payroll deduction on the January 10, 2022 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.

Limited premium exemption opportunity

State law allows you to apply for an individual exemption to the program between October 1, 2021 through December 31, 2022. An employee exempted from the WA Cares Fund premium by ESD is permanently ineligible from receiving benefits under the program and cannot rejoin the program at a later date.

The exemption is only available if:

  • You have purchased long-term care insurance by November 1, 2021; and
  • You are eighteen years of age or older on the date of your exemption application.

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.

If your premium exemption is approved:

  • ESD provides you with an exemption approval letter.
  • 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.

For more information, review the steps for applying for an exemption listed below and visit the WA Cares Fund Exemptions webpage as well as UWHR’s WA Cares Fund FAQs.

Applying for a WA Cares Fund premium exemption and notifying UW of an approved exemption
  1. Follow the instructions provided by the WA Cares Fund at https://wacaresfund.wa.gov/apply-for-an-exemption/ to:
    1. Create a Secure Access Washington (SAW) account or log-in with your SAW account if you already have one.
    2. Add “Paid Family and Medical Leave” to your SAW account.
    3. Create a WA Cares Exemption account.
    4. Submit your application.
  2. 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.
  3. Notify UW of your premium exemption by completing this ISC-Payroll secure webform and attaching a copy of your premium exemption letter.
Benefit amount

The benefit provided will be based on the number of “benefit units” that an employee has earned. Each “benefit unit” will equal $100 in 2025, 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 2025.

Program eligibility

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.

More information

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.