March 27, 2020

OLYMPIAGov. Jay Inslee today signed into law a measure to explore giving access to unemployment benefits to those who become unemployed due to family caregiving responsibilities.

Currently, unemployment insurance law does not allow people to collect unemployment benefits if they leave work voluntarily without “good cause.” The definition of what qualifies as “good cause” is narrow, and current law denies these essential benefits to workers who must leave a job to care for a child or vulnerable adult for whom other care is not accessible.

Sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle), SB 5473 requires the state Employment Security Department to study the impacts of allowing exceptions to current unemployment insurance law that would allow people to receive unemployment insurance benefits if they leave work voluntarily due to:

  • inaccessible care for a child or vulnerable adult.
  • separation from a minor child.
  • a substantial increase in job duties or significant change to working conditions without a commensurate change in pay.

“Access to unemployment benefits would provide relief to working families trying to make ends meet while searching for employment that is compatible with their families’ needs,” said Saldaña.

“Women, who are still largely in charge of family caregiving responsibilities, now outnumber men in the workforce,” said Saldaña. “In Washington, we value the work family caregivers do and we need to honor the efforts working families undertake to balance these duties with work outside the home, and ensure they are not penalized for prioritizing care for their families.

“The goal is to modernize unemployment insurance laws to reflect the needs of today’s workforce and help struggling households stay afloat in tough times—a must in the face of our worsening homelessness human rights crisis.”

Saldaña credited Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue) and Sen. Shelly Short (R-Addy) for their valuable contributions to crafting this critical legislation.