Friends, neighbors –
Our community has shown truly astounding resiliency in the face of loss, instability, and uncertainty. Every day, I am inspired and encouraged by you. I am also eager to share with you some crucial information from the Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) about expanded benefits and increased capacity to provide aid after April 18 – this weekend!
There’s a lot you should know and a lot that you should prepare if you plan to take advantage of this aid. We all want every Washingtonian in need to receive help as quickly and efficiently as possible so we can get our families and our neighbors through this together. Read on for updated information and resources about the upcoming expansion of unemployment benefits and, as always, feel free to reach out to my office if there’s anything I can clarify for you.
During the week of April 5-11, there were 143,241 initial and 585,983 total claims for unemployment benefits, according to ESD. While initial claims declined 16% from the previous week, it was still the third highest weekly number on record and five times more claims than the peak week during the Great Recession. Total weekly claims are now the highest on record.
ESD has been working hard around the clock to help folks get their benefits. One of the upcoming steps is a rollout of the new federal CARES Act provisions that expand eligibility for unemployment assistance, increase the weekly benefit amount by $600, and extend the time available for unemployment assistance by 13 weeks.
ESD will be updating their system to enable that expansion so that individuals such as self-employed workers, independent contractors and other workers who are not traditionally eligible can apply for unemployment benefits. The updates will take the system down most of the day on the 18th, and all staff will be involved in the process. Therefore the call center and site will be closed on Saturday but will reopen on Sunday, 4/19. In the meantime, you can get ready with the information below. ↓↓↓↓
Your unemployment application toolkit
While ESD works hard to update their system and provide guidance for Washington workers, these are four actions you can take right away to get prepared:
- Stay up to date. If you haven’t already, please sign up for ESD’s COVID-19 action alerts. You can do so on the agency’s COVID page (esd.wa.gov/newsroom/covid-19).
- Check your eligibility. Learn more about your eligibility and when to apply for benefits using the new eligibility checker.
- Get ready to apply. Download the application checklist.
- Set up your account. Watch the tutorial video to set up your account correctly. It is nine minutes long but will likely save a lot of time.
Other next-week news:
Have you participated in our weekly Live Zoom Chats on Wednesdays? I’ve loved the opportunity to stay connected with neighbors and share information from local leaders! So far I’ve talked to: Pierce County Councilmember Derek Young and Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido about COVID-19 resources in our region, as well as Jaime Forsyth from Kitsap’s Small Business Development Center about support for businesses during this tough time. Next week, I’m so excited to say we’ll have Dr. Nathan Schlicher from Team Health on our call to give us the health expert perspective on today’s health crisis.
Join us at 3:00 pm (not 1:00 pm as in past weeks – we’re trying to accommodate Dr. Schlicher’s busy schedule!) for our fourth weekly Live Zoom Chat on Wednesday, 4/22. Respond to this email with your questions or comments, or hop on to Facebook at 3:00 pm and drop your questions and thoughts in the comments. Click on the image below to get a reminder and share the link with your friends and neighbors.
Don’t have Facebook? Don’t worry! We can give you call-in information so you can join by phone.
Looking forward to chatting with you soon, and please feel free to reach out anytime at 360-742-2539 or Emily.Randall@leg.wa.gov. The more we hear from you, the better our work in Olympia can reflect our shared values and goals.
All my best,