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Newsletter: COVID-19 relief: Accessing your unemployment benefits

This newsletter was sent to WA-10 constituents on Monday, April 20th. If you'd like to recieve regular updates like this, I encourage you to sign up for my newsletter.

On Saturday evening, Washington’s Employment Security Department (ESD) updated its computer systems to incorporate the massive expansion in pandemic unemployment benefits and eligibility included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. You can apply now at the ESD's website: 

If you lost your job or saw your hours cut because of the COVID-19 pandemic but did not qualify for regular unemployment benefits, you’re now eligible to apply through ESD for pandemic unemployment assistance. If you’re approved to receive unemployment benefits of any amount, you’ll also start receiving an additional Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefit of $600 per week. And all workers will receive an additional 13 weeks of eligibility for unemployment benefits. 

Tens of thousands of Washingtonians successfully applied for pandemic unemployment benefits on Sunday, but we know that thousands more are still trying to get through. If you’re having difficulty getting through via the online application, ESD recommends that you try again at an off-hour in the evening or later in the week. 

All benefits are retroactive – even if you can’t get through today, you’ll still receive the full amount you are eligible for once you complete the process. 

I know this is frustrating. But I also know that the good folks at ESD are working around the clock to increase their capacity and get benefits to as many Washingtonians as they can.

The CARES Act expanded unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To help alleviate the unprecedented increase in demand, ESD strongly encourages you to use their website to apply and answer questions wherever possible. You should only call ESD if you have a question about the status of your claim or have a technical problem that cannot be resolved through ESD’s website. 

In that spirit of helping our friends at ESD ease the flood of incoming questions and requests, I’ve compiled a number of frequently asked questions my office has received on these expanded unemployment benefits, and answered them on my website. I also answered a number of constituent questions with ESD Commissioner Suzi LeVine last week, and you can watch our discussion on my Facebook page

I wanted to share a few of the most common questions with you.  

How do I apply for unemployment benefits? 

Once you have gathered the required materials, you can apply for benefits either online or by phone. ESD strongly recommends you apply online via a laptop or desktop computer. You will need to create a “SecureAccess Washington” (SAW) account to create and manage your application.

If you’re having issues setting up your SAW account, I encourage you to watch the ESD’s video tutorial on how to create your SAW account and reference the ESD’s technical support page.

To avoid overloading ESD’s phone lines, if you have specific questions regarding your unemployment benefits, you can also submit them online through your SAW account at this link.

Who is eligible for the additional $600 per week? When can I expect to receive this benefit? 

If you are approved to receive unemployment benefits of any amount from ESD during the COVID-19 crisis, you will receive the additional Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation of $600 per week. 

As of Saturday, April 18th, ESD has begun processing the additional federal pandemic unemployment benefit. This benefit will be paid retroactively to your first week of eligibility. 

My application and weekly claim ask if I am searching for a job. Do I need to be searching for a job to receive unemployment benefits?

No. For the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, the job search requirements for unemployment benefits are waived. While the ESD application may ask you if you are searching for a job, you do not need to in order to receive unemployment benefits during the pandemic.

When can I expect to receive my unemployment benefits? 

You can expect to receive your unemployment benefits within 7-10 days. 

Millions of people across the country are applying for unemployment benefits. Will the funds for unemployment benefits run out?

The CARES Act guarantees that you will receive the full amount of unemployment benefits you are eligible for. It is not first-come, first-serve. Regardless of when you submit your application or when your application is approved, you will be paid the full amount of benefits you are eligible for retroactively. 

Check out my website for answers to other frequently asked questions on expanded unemployment benefits and eligibility during the COVID-19 pandemic. I also encourage you to watch my conversation with Suzi LeVine on Facebook Live last week, where we answered questions submitted by constituents on social media and constituent mail.

Stay safe and healthy during this difficult time. It is an honor to serve you.


Denny Heck