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Self-employed in Washington state? Here’s how to get unemployment

How sole proprietors and people in the gig economy can make sure they get an unemployment check.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Many self-employed residents in Washington state have seen their business dry up due to the coronavirus shutdown, but so far most have had far more trouble receiving unemployment benefits than other workers.

But state officials say that’s all going to change this weekend.

At a press briefing on Thursday, Suzi LeVine, the Commissioner for the state’s Employment Security Department, said people who are self-employed can apply for unemployment starting on Sunday.

The state’s unemployment website will also be updated on Sunday to handle claims from people who now qualify for unemployment through the CARES Act, including sole proprietors and people in the gig economy. The site will be down on Saturday, LeVine said, and phone lines will be down as well for the update.

Here’s what you need to know. First, find out if you are eligible for unemployment through the CARES Act through the unemployment website’s eligibility tracker.

Then, go through the application checklist to know what you need on hand for the application. 

Then, sign up for a SecureAccess Washington account. Then you’ll be ready to apply for unemployment.  

LeVine said self-employed people need to upload wage information in the unemployment application. Then what will happen is workers will get the weekly minimum -- $235, plus the extra $600 from the CARES Act – to start. Then once wages are verified, they’ll get backpay for the difference.

LeVine said people should expect that the new website will be a little “clunky” and “bare-bones” but the important thing is you fill out the form. If it says you are ineligible, click on the link that says “apply for assistance.”

The good news: People who are just now able to apply for unemployment will get backpay for the time they were eligible for unemployment – when they lost their work – until now. And the first checks come within a week. So some self-employed Washingtonians could see big unemployment checks in their bank accounts very soon.

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