State says file for benefits right away if your job is affected by COVID

Unemployment benefits are available for workers affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

If you are laid off, furloughed or had your hours cut back as a result of coronavirus-related issues, you should apply for Unemployment Insurance benefits as soon as you have been notified by your employer, said Nick Demerice, state Employment Security Office public affairs director.

Before unemployment benefits kick in, there is a waiting week after your last week being paid by your employer, added Demerice.

An increase in the number of people applying for benefits was expected and Employment Security has been preparing for it.

“We are staffing up and can handle large volumes,” said Demerice. “That being said, we are seeing impacts on our phone lines. The easiest and fastest way to file is online through our e-services.”

In many circumstances, your eligibility to receive benefits will vary.

“Everyone’s circumstances are different,” said Demerice. “They should apply and see what their weekly benefit may be.”

The State Employment Security Department has a thorough COVID-19 website,, with up-to-date information about who may qualify for benefits. There is an easy to navigate list of questions and answers for employees, workers impacted by school closures, and employers.

Gov. Jay Inslee and Suzi LeVine, commissioner of the Employment Security Department, rolled out new rules to help alleviate the economic impact felt by businesses and workers. With Inslee’s emergency proclamation, those rules went into effect March 10.

These rules enhance the flexibility of the unemployment insurance program, according to Employment Security, and include:

Workers will be able to receive unemployment benefits and employers will get relief of benefit charges if an employer needs to curtail or shut down operations temporarily because a worker becomes sick and other workers need to be isolated or quarantined as a result of COVID-19.

A worker that follows guidance issued by a medical or public health official to isolate or quarantine themselves as a result of exposure to COVID-19 and is not receiving paid sick leave from their employer, may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits.

If a worker falls seriously ill and is forced to quit, they may qualify for Paid Family Medical Leave while ill under the existing program. Once recovered and available for work, they may apply for unemployment benefits.

It removes the full-time requirement and expands standby ability to part time/less than full-time workers who are isolated.

“The first and best option for workers who need to miss work due to illness or quarantine is to use their employer-provided paid time off,” LeVine said. “When that is not an option, an (Employment Security) program may be able to help. Accessing unemployment benefits, which provide a partial wage replacement, to address these situations is not the first choice but it is a last resort that is available for many. The last thing people need to worry about when dealing with a health crisis is how they’re going to put food on the table.”