Applying for Expanded Unemployment Benefits

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Starting Sunday, April 19th, if you are newly eligible for unemployment under the CARES act (including independent contractors and sole proprietors), you will be able to apply for unemployment benefits. These expanded benefits are called the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

Have questions? You are not alone! Join the Unemployment Law Project every Monday at Noon for a webinar to answer your questions.


**Update May 15th**

Fraud is on the Rise. Here’s what to do:
F

From Worksource Okanogan:
Since the start of May – and particularly in the past week – the Employment Security Department has seen a significant rise in reports of imposter fraud. To be clear – Employment Security has not had a breach of our system and no data has been taken from our agency. ESD has many controls and gates in place to prevent, identify and block fraud, and while ESD has seen a rise in reports of imposter fraud recently, this is by no means new or unique.

What’s new is the volume of fraud. In large part because of the high volume of claims due to the COVID-19 crisis and the huge amounts of money that’s being paid as a result of the CARES Act.

Out of an abundance of caution, ESD is holding payments for an additional 1-2 days this week to validate claims as authentic.

If anyone believes they are a victim of imposter fraud, please go to esd.wa.gov/fraud and report it immediately using the instructions on that page.

**Update May 7**

Can I still receive unemployment benefits if I make online sales or other income?

Possibly, and it is determined on a weekly basis. If you are approved for either regular unemployment or (more likely for someone self-employed) Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, then you will receive a Weekly Benefit Amount based on previous earnings. When you file your weekly claims, be honest about your net earnings for that week. Report the money you earned rather than received, and the equivalent hours that went in to making those earnings.

It is likely that your income will vary greatly week by week. Keep filing your weekly claims, as you may be eligible some weeks and not others.

To figure out if you qualify for benefits based on weekly income, consult this chart to help calculate your Earnings Deduction (about 75% of your earnings). If this is equal to or more than your Weekly Benefit Amount, you will not receive benefits that week.

**Update May 1**

Many sole proprietors and gig workers have had trouble getting benefits. Here are some ways to help the application process (from Worksource Wenatchee):

TIPS & TRICKS:  ENSURE YOU AVOID COMMON AND SIMPLE ERRORS THAT COULD DELAY YOUR BENEFITS

Employment Security Department has created these helpful resources to assist you in preparing to apply for Unemployment Insurance:

  • Watch the tutorial video when setting up your account.
  • Unemployment Insurance Application Checklist
  • Check out the Unemployment web page for additional information and assistance in guiding you through the benefits that may be available to you and the process to apply.
  • We have been getting a lot of questions about the application process for individuals that are self-employed or Independent Contractors.  The Expanded Unemployment Application Guide is a great guide that will help you navigate UI and PUA. 
    • NOTE: The original UI claim is the claim that is able to be backdated to the date of impact.  Even though as an individual who is self-employed, an independent contractor, or someone who has been working part time (working less than 680 hours) you will still need to file all available weekly claims on this application even though it will continue to say you are ‘ineligible’. 
      • Once you fill out the PUA these weeks will transfer over to the new PUA claim.  (If you’ve already filled out the PUA, and only have received benefits from the date of application for PUA, go back and file those weekly claims on the ineligible claim to trigger back pay).
  • VERY important: Ensure you upload VALID documents to prove your self-employment/independent contractor earnings.
  • To avoid delays, upload the documents AND manually enter your quarterly net earnings. ENSURE THAT THE NUMBERS MATCH
    • The system will ask for earnings for the Quarters ENDING in 3/31/19, 6/30/19, 9/30/19, 12/31/19; it is asking for the full quarter, not just those individual months).
2019 DocumentPrimary acceptable value
1040 – Single FilingLine 11b – Taxable Income
1040 – Joint FilingLine 11b – Taxable Income
1125-EOn 1125-E, compensation in column (f) paid to claimant
Schedule CLine 31 – Net Profit (or loss)
Schedule FLine 34 – Net Farm Profit (or loss)
W-2Line 5 – Medicare Wages and Tips
1099-Misc Box 3 or 7
1040-SEBox 2 Net Profit (or loss)
1065 Schedule K-1Box 14 is their calculated self-employment earnings

ARE YOUR PAYMENTS PENDNG?  LEARN MORE ABOUT ‘ADJUDICATION’ 

Adjudication is a required part of Unemployment insurance when there are discrepancies – it ensures due process for both individuals and employers.

Watch this short video from Employment Security Commissioner Suzi LeVineto learn more.


Ready to apply?

The Washington State ESD now has a thorough guide for applying for these expanded benefits on their website.

They also have a complete guide for the self-employed and independent contractors available here.

The basic process is this:

  1. Download this checklist for information you need to apply for regular unemployment benefits.
  2. Download this guide then apply for regular unemployment benefits, even though you likely don’t qualify for them. This step is required before you can apply for the benefits for self-employed workers.
  3. Download this checklist and apply for expanded unemployment benefits (called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance).
  4. Submit weekly claims to get paid.

Here are some tips from Suzi LeVine, the Commissioner for the state’s Employment Security Department:


Check Your Eligibility: Washington State Employment Securities Department (ESD) has this checklist for checking your eligibility: CARES Act Unemployment Expansion Checklist


Sign up for a SecureAccess account BEFORE you start your application: Create a login here.


Get Application Materials Together: Here is the checklist of information you will need to apply for unemployment. Have it ready to go, as the system will time out. For self-employed, the application will require some kind of wage information for 2019, like a Schedule C or 1099’s.


Apply during off-hours: The system is overwhelmed with applications, so it will be more successful to apply early in the morning or late at night. If you are having trouble even logging on, it is due to this traffic.


What else do I need to know?

The website says I’m “denied” after I filled out the form, but the checklist says I’m eligible.

If you are eligible for Unemployment Benefits under that new system but not the old, you must be denied benefits before you can apply under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program. This could be immediate or take a few weeks, and you may be called by ESD for additional information. You will be notified through a message in your SAW account.


I was self-employed or an independent contractor, so how will my weekly benefit be determined?

The ESD must verify wage information to determine your correct benefits. This typically takes up to three weeks if there are no issues with your application.

However, to get you money as soon as possible, the ESD will pay you the minimum amount you are eligible for after you’re approved and you submit your first weekly claim.

They will review the information you submit as quickly as possible and calculate the total benefits you’re owed. Any money you missed will be paid.


What is the minimum benefit? When will I get it?

The minimum benefit will be $235 from the state unemployment assistance program, plus $600 from the CARES act. That will come to $835 a week. 

For people who qualify for unemployment it will take an average of 3 to 5 days for checks to arrive and 24 to 48 hours with direct deposit. People who were already receiving unemployment benefits don’t have to do anything new. 


If I was denied benefits in the past few weeks, should I try again?

Yes, especially if you are only eligible for unemployment through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.


If you need assistance email us at Methow Arts, info@methowartsalliance.org. We are open and working remotely. #methowarts #artgrowshere

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