OLYMPIA — With the passage of Senate Bill 5478 today, the Legislature has now put $2.2 billion in unemployment insurance (UI) tax cuts back into the pockets of Washington’s employers.

“Businesses around our state have been suffering during this pandemic,” said Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines), the bill’s sponsor and chair of the Senate Labor, Commerce & Tribal Affairs Committee. “We knew when the legislative session started that we needed to act quickly and decisively to provide immediate relief and help employers recover going forward—and that’s what we’ve done.”

SB 5478 provides the hardest-hit businesses with $500 million from a state funded unemployment relief account to reduce UI premium taxes in 2022.

That comes on top of $1.7 billion in 2021 UI tax relief that went out to all businesses in Washington after SB 5061, also sponsored by Keiser, was signed into law on Feb. 8.

SB 5478, which is broadly supported by business groups, provides relief to employers in economic sectors hit hardest by COVID-19 measures in 2020 and 2021, including restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, gyms, bowling alleys, retail outlets, and others. Absent legislative action, those businesses will see a massive spike in UI taxes in 2022 due to the historically large number of their workers who received UI benefits during the pandemic. Under SB 5478, state funds would be used to prevent many of those tax increases.

SB 5478 now goes to the governor for his signature.