This article is directly from the Washington State Employment Security Department. See most up to date information here:

https://esd.wa.gov/newsroom/covid-19

 

 

Updated March 12, 2020

Dear Washington workers and businesses:

Employment Security has programs designed to help individuals and employers during this unprecedented time.

If you are affected by COVID-19, Employment Security has programs that may be able to help. We adopted a series of emergency rules to relieve the burden of temporary layoffs, isolation and quarantine for workers and businesses. This easy-to-read comparison guidelists some of the most common scenarios that may occur and benefits that may apply.

For example:

  • Workers may receive unemployment benefits and employers may get relief of benefit charges if an employer needs to shut down operations temporarily because a worker becomes sick and other workers need to be isolated or quarantined as a result of COVID-19.
  • Standby will be available for part-time workers as well as full-time workers, as long as they meet the minimum 680 hours.
  • Workers that are asked to isolate or quarantine by a medical professional or public health official as a result of exposure to COVID-19 may receive unemployment benefits and work search requirements could be waived, so long as they have a return date with their employer. The return to work date can be the date the isolation or quarantine is lifted.
  • If a worker falls seriously ill and is forced to quit, they cannot collect unemployment benefits while they are seriously ill but may be eligible once they recover and are able and available for work.

The new rules allow current unemployment claimants who are in isolation or quarantine as a result of COVID-19 more leniency when it comes to UI deadlines and mandatory appointments, such as deadlines for applying for training programs.

The rules also provide more leniency when it comes to financial penalties for employers who file their tax reports late, pay their taxes late, or miss deadlines as a result of COVID-19.

Additionally, along with Lisa Brown of the Department of Commerce, I am co-chairing Governor Inslee’s COVID-19 Economic Impact Task Force. Please know, the Employment Security Department and the entire state is mobilized and ready to help you through this difficult time.

Sincerely,
Commissioner Suzi LeVine

Photo of ESD Commissioner Suzi LeVine

 


COVID-19 Rulemaking: This page provides links to current emergency rules and rulemaking documents, and will host future information about new or amended rules, public hearings, responses to public comments, and supporting documents for all the Department’s COVID-19 related rulemaking.


 Employees button

COVID-19 Q & A (This information is updated frequently. Check back for updates.)

Q.  What if I need to take time off work because I contract COVID-19?
A.  The first and best option for employees who need to miss work due to illness is to use their employer-paid time off. Labor and Industries has information about Paid Sick Leave. When this leave is not available, Paid Family & Medical Leave may be available to help.

Note: Unemployment Benefits and Paid Family and Medical Leave are two separate programs and have different eligibility requirements.

Q.  What if I am asked by a medical professional or public health official to quarantine as a result of COVID-19, but I am not sick?
A.  If you are following guidance issued by a medical professional or public health official to isolate or quarantine yourself as a result of exposure to COVID-19 and you are not receiving paid sick leave from your employer, you may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. Eligibility decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. If you know you can return to your job as soon as your isolation or quarantine is lifted, you may not need to search for work. You must able to accept any work offered by your employer that would not cause you to break isolation or quarantine.

Q.  You may be eligible for unemployment benefits if you’re out of work due to a lack of work. Here are instructions on how to apply for unemployment benefits. (These benefits are intended to assist workers who lost their jobs through no fault of their own.)
A.
  You may be eligible for unemployment benefits if you’re out of work due to a lack of work. Here are instructions on how to apply for unemployment benefits. (These benefits are intended to assist workers who lost their jobs through no fault of their own.)

Q.  My employer has shut down operations temporarily because an employee is sick and we have been asked to isolate or quarantine as a result of COVID-19. Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?
A.  If you are not receiving payment from your employer, such as paid sick leave or paid time off, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits and may qualify for standby during this time. Eligibility decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. Basic eligibility requirements for a claim can be found here.

Q.  What if I am temporarily laid off work because business has slowed down as a result of COVID-19?
A.
  If you are laid off work temporarily or if your hours are reduced due to a business slowdown or a lack of demand as a result of COVID-19, you may be able to receive unemployment benefits. Eligibility decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

  • Standby means you do not have to look for another job while you collect unemployment benefits, so long as you stay in contact with your regular employer. You must accept any work you can do without breaking isolation or quarantine that is offered by your employer, such as telework. When you file your claim, you can request up to four weeks of standby. If needed, your employer can request up to an additional four weeks of standby (for a total of eight) as long as you will be returning to work full-time when business picks up again.
  • Partial Employment or SharedWork: Under certain circumstances, you may work part-time while collecting unemployment benefits.

Q.  I am a part-time employee. Am I eligible for standby?
A.  If you have an anticipated date that you will return to work, under the emergency rules we put into place as a result of COVID-19, standby is available to all full-time, part-time, and other less than full-time employees. If you worked part time in the last 18 months, you must meet the minimum requirement of having worked 680 hours in your base year in order to have an unemployment claim. Basic eligibility requirements for a claim can be found here.

Q.  What is a request to isolate or quarantine?
A.  A request to isolate or quarantine is:

  • A letter documenting a voluntary request or involuntary order to isolate or quarantine from a medical professional, local health official, or the Secretary of Health.
  • A note from your medical provider or medical records office recommending isolation or quarantine.
  • A self-determination that Department of Health’s quarantine guidance applies to you.

Q.  What should I do if I contract COVID-19 on the job?
A.  See information from the Dept. of Labor and Industries information on Workers’ Compensation.

Q.  Do I qualify for unemployment benefits if I become seriously ill and I am forced to quit my job as a result of COVID-19?
A.  If you are too ill to be able and available for work, you do not qualify for unemployment benefits. However, you may qualify for Paid Family & Medical Leave while you are sick. You can learn more in this Q&A. Once you recover and are available for work again, you can apply for unemployment benefits.

Q.  How am I supposed to meet deadlines related to my existing unemployment claim if I am in isolation or quarantine as a result of COVID-19?
A.  Under the emergency rules we put into place as a result of COVID-19, we are providing more leniency for many UI deadlines, such as deadlines for training programs. Submit your documents as soon as you are able and provide as much information as you can. Progress reports for training programs can be submitted with whatever information you have available. For example, if your school has closed, return your paperwork and tell us.

Q.  I am still confused about what benefits and programs may be available to individuals who are financially affected by COVID-19.
A.  This easy-to-read reference guide provides a simple list of many scenarios related to COVID-19 and the benefits that may apply.

Q.  What if I’ve been collecting unemployment benefits and either myself or a family member gets sick with COVID-19 and I must care for them, what options do I have for benefits?
A. 
 If you have been receiving unemployment benefits and are now sick with COVID-19, or need to take care of a loved one who is sick with COVID-19, you may not be considered able and available for work. You can apply for benefits with Paid Family & Medical Leave (PFML). You cannot receive both unemployment benefits and PFML during the same week. You need to stop claiming unemployment benefits when you start receiving PFML. Cancellation of your unemployment claim is not necessary. Please visit  PFML’s website for more information. Eligibility decisions for both unemployment and PFML are made on a case-by-case basis.

Q.  How am I supposed to meet deadlines related to my existing unemployment claim if I am in isolation or quarantine as a result of COVID-19?
A.  Under the emergency rules we put into place as a result of COVID-19, we are providing more leniency for many UI deadlines, such as deadlines for training programs. Submit your documents as soon as you are able and provide as much information as you can. Progress reports for training programs can be submitted with whatever information you have available. For example, if your school has closed, return your paperwork and tell us.

Q.  What if I’ve been collecting unemployment benefits and either myself or a family member gets sick with COVID-19 and I must care for him or her, what options do I have for benefits?
A
.  It depends. If you cannot go to work because you don’t have childcare while school is closed, you should call your employer and let them know why you are absent. If your employer fires you or lays you off while you are absent, you may qualify for benefits. However, you are required to be able, available and actively seeking work each week you collect unemployment benefits. If you do not have childcare so that you can return to your job or accept a work offer, you will not be eligible for unemployment benefits. If your situation changes, let us know. Remember, your first and best option should always be employer-paid time off.

 

Employers button

We have expanded programs to help support businesses and workers whose financial stability is affected by COVID-19.

  • SharedWork is a smart alternative to a layoff. The program allows employers to reduce the hours of permanent and paid hourly employees by as much as 50 percent, and the employees can collect partial unemployment benefits to replace a portion of their lost wages.
  • Temporary shutdowns due to quarantine: If you need to shut down operations temporarily because an employee becomes sick and other employees need to be isolated or quarantined, your workers may be able to receive unemployment benefits and you may receive relief of benefit charges. You may request to place employees on standby for up to eight weeks and your employees can collect unemployment benefits without having to look for other work. We may grant standby for more than eight weeks if you make your request in writing and can show extraordinary circumstances.
    Under the new emergency rules, temporary shutdowns related to COVID-19 infection at the place of business that cause you to close or severely reduce operations are considered extraordinary circumstances. You may request relief of benefit charges. Workers must accept any telework you offer.
  • Temporary layoffs due to a slowdown in business: You may request to place an employee on standby for eight weeks and your employee can collect unemployment benefits without having to look for other work. If on standby, workers must accept any work you offer that they can do without breaking isolation or quarantine. Relief of benefit charges cannot be granted in this situation.
  • Financial penalties may be waived for employers who file tax reports late, pay taxes late, or do not respond to requests for information in a timely fashion as a result of COVID-19.

School closures

This Q&A is updated frequently. Check back for the latest information. 

Governor Inslee announced a statewide closure of schools beginning midnight, March 17, through April 24, unless it is extended beyond that date.

The first and best option for workers affected by school closures is employer-paid time off. When that is not an option, Employment Security may be able to help by providing access to unemployment benefits. Benefits can provide a partial wage replacement as a last resort. Below is information for teachers, school administrative staff, school support staff (i.e., janitors, cafeteria workers, bus drivers), and those with children impacted by school closures.

Q.  The school I work at is closed due to the Governor’s order to close. Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?
A.
  If you are being paid by the school while your school is closed, you can apply for benefits, but you may be considered fully employed and not eligible. If your school is not paying you while it is closed, you may be eligible for benefits. You will have to be able, available and actively seeking work during each week you claim, unless you are approved for standby. Eligibility decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

Q.  My child’s school is closed due to the Governor’s order to close. Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?
A.  It depends. If you cannot go to work because you don’t have childcare for your child while school is closed, you should call your employer and let them know why you are absent. If your employer fires you or lays you off while you are absent, you may qualify for benefits.  However, you are required to be able, available and actively seeking work each week you collect unemployment benefits. If you do not have childcare so that you can return to your job or accept a work offer, you will not be eligible for unemployment benefits. If your situation changes, let us know. Remember, your first and best option should always be employer-paid time off.

Q.  I am a substitute teacher who is no longer able to secure work with a school because of the closures. Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?
A.  You may be eligible for unemployment. You will have to be able, available and actively seeking other suitable work during each week you claim. Eligibility decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

Additional resources for workers and businesses

March 10: Inslee announces support for workers and businesses impacted by COVID-19

March 6: Inslee announces workers’ compensation coverage to include quarantined health workers/first responders

March 5: A special COVID-19 message to Washington state businesses and workers from Governor Jay Inslee

Where to get up-to-date and correct information on COVID-19

To quote the state Department of Health, “Sharing accurate information during a time of heightened concern is one of the best things we can do to keep rumors and misinformation from spreading.”

 

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