Information about unemployment benefits
Updated September 7, 2021
- The CARES Act and other federal programs that expanded and extended unemployment benefits expired the week ending September 4, 2021. For more information on this change and options that may be available, view the Employment Security Department’s Federal pandemic unemployment benefits ending webpage.
The Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) is responsible for administering unemployment benefits which partially replace regular wages when you are out of work. Benefits are normally not available if you decide to quit (resign) or if you are terminated for gross misconduct.
Qualifying criteria for WA State unemployment
Under WA state law individuals are eligible for benefits if they:
- Have worked for at least 680 hours in WA during the “base year” (the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters) in a position included in WA’s unemployment program.
- Have worked in WA State sometime in the last 18 months.
- Have been laid off or fired (unless for gross misconduct).
- Are looking for work, available for work, and willing to accept an offer of suitable work (except when they are on standby while temporarily laid off).
- Are under quarantine or isolation as defined by the WA Department of Health and as directed by a public health official if they are looking for work that can be done under quarantine or isolation, during the COVID-19 emergency and until June 30, 2021.
- Left work on or after April 4, 2021 because they were not able to work from home in their current position, are looking for work, available for work, and willing to accept an offer of suitable work that can be done from home, and they or a household member are at higher risk of severe illness from the disease that is the subject of the regional, state, or national public health emergency.
- During a regional, state, or national public health emergency concerning any dangerous, contagious, or infectious diseases, are looking for work, available for work, and willing to accept an offer of suitable work that can be done from home, and they or someone in their household is at higher risk of severe illness from the disease that is the subject of the regional, state, or national public health emergency.
Use the first page of ESD’s Eligibility Checker to help figure out if you are eligible for WA State unemployment benefits due to a layoff or reduction in hours unrelated to COVID-19.
Student employees and WA State unemployment
Student employees are typically exempt from WA State unemployment under RCW 50.44.040 and UW does not report wage or hour information for student employees to ESD.
Qualifying criteria under ESD emergency rules
Under the ESD emergency rules issued in response to the COVID-19 emergency, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits when you are not receiving wages from the UW and:
- You are temporarily laid off (on “standby”)
- During standby due to COVID-19, you do not have to look for another job while you collect unemployment benefits, so long as you stay in contact with UW. However, you must accept any offered work you can do without breaking isolation or quarantine, such as telework.
- Your hours are reduced due to a lack of work.
- You meet CDC guidelines for being at high risk for COVID-19 and were laid off on or after March 23, 2020.
Unemployment benefits under federal law
The federal CARES Act created three federal unemployment programs, which were extended and modified December 27, 2020. On March 11, 2021 a new federal law was signed to extend these programs through September 4, 2021. These federal programs provided benefits for people who don’t usually qualify for unemployment, extended benefits for longer than the standard 26 weeks, and provided an extra $300 payment.
As the week ending September 4, 2021 was the last week for these federal programs, per ESD’s Federal pandemic benefits ending webpage, individuals needing to start a new claim, continue an existing claim, or restart a claim will be allowed to do so with decisions regarding eligibility made on a case-by-case basis.
The amount of the WA state unemployment benefit is determined by ESD and can be estimated using this ESD tool. Individuals eligible for unemployment report any earnings as part of a “weekly claim,” including payments from UW such as wages or paid time off (e.g., holiday pay), which may reduce the weekly benefit amount.
For new unemployment claims filed on or after July 4, 2021, the minimum weekly benefit amount is $295 and the maximum weekly benefit amount is $929.
How to file for unemployment benefits
To apply for unemployment benefits, follow the application process on ESD’s Unemployment benefits webpage. Use this ESD Checklist to understand the process and know what information you need to apply.
Use your payslip to sum the total of your gross wages and to average how many hours you work on a weekly basis. You can enter gross wages per hour, week, month or year.
When asked to identify your employer:
- UW employees (including UWMC Montlake, UWMC Northwest, and UW Neighborhood clinics) use Federal tax ID 91-6001537 and Employment Security Reference Number 000990180003
- Harborview employees use Federal tax ID 91-6001537 and Employment Security Reference Number 000992172009
Questions about WA’s unemployment compensation , including eligibility, the application process, weekly benefit amounts, earnings deductions, and other topics should be directed to ESD.
For more information about unemployment compensation for UW employees, visit UWHR’s frequently asked questions (FAQs) about unemployment compensation.