Working during COVID-19

Unemployment FAQs

Updated September 13, 2020

Applying for unemployment

What is the application process for regular unemployment and unemployment under the CARES Act?
The fastest way to apply is online through ESD’s unemployment page. You will need to set up a Secure Access Washington (SAW) account (see What information do I need to apply for unemployment?). You will apply first for regular unemployment benefits; if not eligible under typical WA State rules (e.g. do not have 680 hours), you will be denied and then can apply under the CARES Act.

What information do I need to apply for unemployment? (updated June 9, 2020)

  • A SecureAccess Washington username and password. Visit to create and activate an account
  • Your name, Social Security number, birthdate, and contact information
  • Your complete work history for the past 18 months including employer name(s), address(es), Federal Identification Number and Employment Security Reference Number:
    • UW employees (including UWMC Montlake and UWMC Northwest):
      University of Washington
      Payroll-Box 359555
      Seattle, WA 98105-0001
      Federal tax ID 91-6001537
      Employment Security Reference Number 000990180003

Employees who integrated from Northwest Hospital on January 1, 2020 will select UW as their employer.

    • Harborview employees:
      Harborview Medical Center
      University of WA-HMC
      Box 359555
      Seattle, WA 98195-0001
      Federal tax ID 91-6001537
      Employment Security Reference Number 000992172009
  • Start and end date of employment for each employer
  • Your bank account and routing number, if you want to sign up for direct deposit

Visit ESD’s unemployment page for information on applying for benefits.

What happens after an application is submitted?
ESD reviews applications to see if the application meets the work history and other basic eligibility requirements. Then ESD sends hard copy notification letters to applicants and to the UW. The letters include the information submitted by the applicant when making a claim for unemployment. UW Integrated Service Center (ISC) provides wage and hour information if needed. UW Human Resources (UWHR) staff supporting campus, the medical centers, and faculty and academic staff review ESD notification letters.

How does UW review ESD notification letters?
UW verifies hours worked and wage information and if there is any mismatch between the information provided to ESD and the information UW has in its records, UW corrects the information and sends it back to ESD. ESD may follow-up as needed to further verify information submitted as part of a claim. When there is suspected fraud, UW uses the approach described below in What is the University of Washington doing in response to unemployment fraud?

After I apply for and start receiving unemployment compensation, what is needed to continue to receive unemployment compensation? (added June 9, 2020; updated June 18, 2020)
ESD describes what is needed after applying for unemployment compensation on their Unemployment page and in their Unemployed Worker Handbook. Eligibility for unemployment is determined by ESD. You should respond to requests for information sent to you through eServices.

Due to COVID-19, requirements may be temporarily modified or waived as outlined in the table below:


Regular WA unemployment Rules currently in effect
Applicants are required to be available for work and participate in work search activities. Applicants do not have to be available for work or participate in work search activities.
Applicants are required to request standby and employers confirm request for standby. Applicants are automatically placed on standby during the COVID-19 emergency.
An unemployed individual is required to be unemployed for a waiting period of one week before being eligible to receive unemployment benefits. Requirement is waived through October 3, 2020 unless otherwise extended  (updated September 2, 2020).

If I have been receiving unemployment benefits after being furloughed due to COVID-19 and my department asks me to return to work, am I required to accept the offer and return to work? (added June 24, 2020)

Yes, unless ESD agrees you have a “good cause” not to accept an offer to return to work. If you receive an offer to return to work, report it to ESD as part of your weekly claim. ESD will determine whether you are still eligible for unemployment benefits. Examples of good cause reasons include being at high risk for or sick with COVID-19; caring for a household member who is sick with COVID-19; caring for a child whose school is closed or due to lack of childcare; or if there are substantial changes in the job made by the employer. For more information on returning to work, good cause reasons, and employer and employee specific FAQs, visit ESD’s refusal of work website.

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Federal CARES Act

What is the impact of the CARES Act on UW employees (updated September 13, 2020)
Employees who were not eligible under regular WA unemployment may now be eligible including those who did not work 680 hours in WA in the previous 18 months; student employees, who are otherwise exempted from WA state unemployment under RCW 50.44.040; and employees working part time.

I am a student employee whose work hours were eliminated due to COVID-19. Am I eligible?
Student employees may be eligible for the new CARES Act benefits. The determination is made by ESD. Under pre-COVID-19 WA State law, student employees typically are not eligible for unemployment compensation and for that reason, UW normally does not send wage and hour information for student employees to ESD. Because of this and ESD’s multi-step application process (see What is the application process for regular unemployment and unemployment under the CARES Act? at the top of this page), an initial application by a student employee will likely be rejected. If not approved in the first step, applicants can then apply for unemployment under the federal CARES Act.

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What do I do if I think someone has filed a fraudulent claim for unemployment benefits using my name?
Employees must report potential fraud to ESD through the steps listed below as soon as they suspect fraud. This is because ESD has the legal authority to investigate fraud as well as stop fraudulent claims from being paid.

Contact ESD to report fraud

Employees who are victims of fraud should complete the secure fraud reporting form ESD has provided on its benefits fraud page.

The secure fraud reporting form asks for the following:

  • First name and last name
  • Date of birth
  • Last four digits of your SSN
  • Street address
  • Contact information
  • Claimant or Letter ID
  • A brief description of how you found out an impostor-fraud claim was filed using your information. We suggest: “I received a letter about unemployment benefits but I have not applied for benefits. Please deny and cancel the claim.”
  • Your permission to cancel the impostor-fraud claim filed using your information.

After reporting the fraud to ESD, employees can also let UW know by reporting it to the ISC.

How do I know someone has filed a fraudulent claim in my name?
When UWHR or ISC staff have reason to believe a fraudulent claim has been filed in an employee’s name, they will contact employees by email (see What is UW doing in response to unemployment fraud? below). Separately, employees may receive unexpected regular mail from ESD about an application for unemployment they did not make, as reported in this Seattle Times article.

What is the UW doing in response to unemployment fraud?
UWHR and ISC staff are responding with a coordinated approach, with the goal of getting suspected fraud reported in two ways. This is in addition to the employee reporting the fraud to ESD (see What do I do if I think someone has filed a fraudulent claim for unemployment benefits using my name?).

  1. UWHR will contact employees by email when suspicious claims are filed in their name and will provide them with information about how to report fraud through ESD’s benefits fraud website.
  2. ESD provides a weekly notice of claims to ISC which are reviewed and if fraud is suspected, ISC contests the charges.

If there is a fraudulent claim in my name, does that mean I am responsible for the money paid out? What if I need unemployment in the future? (updated May 27, 2020)
If you are a victim of fraud, you will not have to repay money paid out as a result of fraud. You might receive a letter from ESD about “overpayment,” but this is a system generated letter that can be ignored if you reported fraud to ESD. Additionally, if you are a victim of fraud and then need to apply for benefits, you will still be able to do so. ESD has published this poster which summarizes ways to protect yourself against identify theft and imposter fraud.

Has ESD implemented any changes due to the extent of suspected fraud (added May 21, 2020)?

Yes. Starting the week of May 10, 2020, if ESD suspects fraud, they will stop unemployment compensation payments for the week they discovered the fraud and request more information from the applicant. If the claim was backdated, but weekly benefits have not yet been paid, those payments will also be suspended.

If there is no response to the request for more information, the claim will be denied for an indefinite period of time. If the applicant replies, ESD will reevaluate the claim.

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Temporary layoffs and furloughs seem to have different meanings for ESD and UW. What’s the difference? (updated June 9, 2020)
ESD considers furloughs a form of temporary layoff that may consist of a complete stoppage of work or reduced work hours for a specific period. At UW, temporary layoffs are either a reduction in FTE or a furlough (an unpaid leave/work stoppage). The UW’s terminology comes from state civil service rules and is terminology consistent with other public higher education institutions and agencies in Washington State.

When a furloughed employee applies for unemployment compensation with ESD, how do they indicate they have been furloughed? (added June 9, 2020)

ESD’s application for unemployment compensation asks the employee to choose a reason why they are separated from work. Furlough is not a listed option. Instead, for the question “Why did you separate from this employer?” select “Laid off” and for the follow-up question, “Choose more information about this separation” select “Other reason not listed.”

How do earnings affect weekly benefit amounts?
Individuals report earnings in their weekly claim. If the individual receives pay from the UW such as wages or paid time off (e.g., holiday pay, hours worked, or other paid time off), their unemployment compensation claim is reduced. The formula for the earnings offset is (Gross Weekly Wage minus $5) times 75%. When the earnings deduction is equal to or more than the weekly benefit, the individual is not eligible for benefit payments.

Since unemployment benefits are determined on a weekly basis, full-time workers whose hours of work are reduced by one work day each week usually will not be eligible for partial unemployment benefits because they earn too much in the week to be eligible.

This table shows two examples of the how weekly earnings affect weekly benefits for an eligible individual. For more detail visit

Effect of weekly earnings on weekly UC benefits:
This assumes in the base year the sum of gross wages for the two highest quarters was $24,000

Example 1:
Working 75% of normal
Example 2:
Working 50% of normal
Regular Monthly gross $4,000 $4,000
Weekly gross $750 $500
Estimated Weekly Benefit Amount $462 $462
Estimated Earnings Deduction $559 $371
Eligible for unemployment? No, because the Estimated Earnings Deduction is greater than the Weekly Benefit Amount. Yes, because the Estimated Earnings Deduction is less than the Weekly Benefit Amount.
Adjusted Weekly Benefit Amount N/A $91

If unemployment is needed for a longer period of time due to an extension of a temporary layoff, what are my options (added September 13, 2020)

According to ESD’s definition of “benefit year,” your Washington unemployment benefit claim is available for one year, which is 52 weeks from the week you applied. While most individuals receive between 13 to 26 weeks of benefits within that 52 week period at which time the claim is “exhausted,” there are two ways the benefit year may be extended which are described on ESD’s benefits extension webpage:

  1. Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), created as part of the federal CARES Act, provides for up to 13 weeks of additional benefits to workers who meet eligibility requirements. Individuals who qualify for an extension under the PEUC will receive a notification from ESD on how to apply.
  2. State extended benefits available after all other benefits are exhausted (including the PEUC), and in relationship to high unemployment. Individuals who qualify for this extension will receive a notification from ESD on how to apply.

Are furloughed employees eligible for the $300 Lost Wages Assistance benefit (added September 13, 2020)?

Lost Wage Assistance is a federal program that adds $300 for each week the program remains federally funded. Employees who have received unemployment benefits for certain weeks and are unemployed or working fewer hours due to disruptions caused by COVID-19, including those on furlough related to COVID-19, may be eligible for these benefits as determined by ESD. View more information at ESD’s Lost Wages Assistance website about answering eligibility questions, approval, and issuance of payments.

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Can I receive unemployment benefits and the new emergency paid sick leave or extended FMLA pay under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) at the same time?
No. Unemployment benefits are designed to partially replace regular wages when your employer does not have work (or has less work) for you to perform. FFCRA is for employees for whom UW has work available, but they are unable to perform it due to certain COVID-related reasons.

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