Watch special coverage as an expert answers your questions about filing for unemployment on KREM 2 News at 4:30, krem.com and the KREM 2 mobile app.
SPOKANE, Wash. — Both Washington state and Idaho have seen a dramatic increase in claims for unemployment benefits by as businesses temporarily close to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Numbers released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor and the state Employment Security Department showed that that 133,464 new claims for unemployment benefits were filed in Washington during the week of March 15-21, an increase of 119,310 new claims over the previous week.
Spokane County experienced the highest increase in unemployment claims statewide: 455 to 8,766, an increase of 1,826% from the previous week.
Washington state's Employment Security Department has increased access to unemployment benefits, adopting a series of emergency rules to relieve some burden of layoffs.
Idaho Gov. Brad Little announced on Friday that he is waiving the one-week waiting period for unemployment insurance claims and giving people an extra two weeks to appeal claims.
Here is what you need to know about filing for unemployment in Washington and Idaho.
Who's eligible for unemployment?
In Washington, workers laid off as a result of Gov. Jay Inslee's "stay-at-home" order issued on March 23 are eligible for unemployment. This does not apply to workers considered essential.
Choose "laid off" as your reason for separating from your employer. Choose "company temporarily closed" from the secondary options.
Idaho residents who are unemployed or “underemployed” can qualify for unemployment insurance benefits. Applicants must show they are able to work, available for work, are willing to actively seek work and have fully or partially lost work through no fault of their own.
People whose hours have been cut or reduced to part-time through no fault of their own may not realize that they, too, could be eligible for benefits.
In Idaho, people working part time can receive some or all of their weekly unemployment payment. Gross earnings must be reported on the weekly certification during the week earned.
You can find more information about how wages affect unemployment payments here.
How can I file?
In Washington, the fastest way to apply for benefits is online. While you can file by phone, you should expect extended wait times. There are no in-person unemployment offices in Washington state.
Idaho residents can apply online. The Labor office does not accept claims by phone.
Those without internet access or who need help filing online can go to their near nearest local Idaho Department of Labor office.
Be prepared to give personal information like your Social Security number, and payroll information that can be found on a W2 or paystub from your former employer. You will likely also have to submit weekly updates to your state to maintain eligibility.
Are gig workers eligible for unemployment?
In Washington, the answer is maybe. The state's unemployment insurance law is broader than under most other laws. This means that just because you are classified as an independent contractor under some laws does not mean that you are an independent contractor under Washington's unemployment laws.
The state's Employment Security Department encourages those who have been laid off or lost work to apply for benefits. It will evaluate each application for eligibility on a case-by-case basis.
According to NPR, the $2.2 trillion relief package passed by both the House and Senate allows self-employed people to apply for unemployment benefits that they normally would not qualify for. The package also lets some of the self-employed access disaster loans for small businesses.
Do I have to seek work?
In Idaho, it depends. If you are unemployed due for reasons related to COVID-19 and are returning to work with your employer, you are not required to register for work or seek work.
Make sure to answer "yes" to the question asking if you are returning to work within 16 weeks on your application. If you are not returning with your employer, you will be required complete two work search activities per week.
It's a different story in Washington. The Washington State Employment Security Department announced on March 24 that weekly job searches will be optional for people who are seeking unemployment benefits. The waiver is in effect until further notice.
When do I become eligible for unemployment?
Both Washington and Idaho have waived the one-week waiting period to be eligible for unemployment benefits.
Payment is typically issued within a few weeks of receiving a claim.
Some claims require more research to reach a decision on whether you’ll receive benefits and could take longer. You should continue to file weekly claims during this time.
How much money will I get?
Your exact pay per week depends on your state and how much money you were making before losing your job. Your state will calculate the specific number using information from your previous paychecks. But the exact amount can't be lower or higher than your state's maximum and minimum amounts.
Find out more by clicking on Washington or Idaho here.
Will $600 be added to my unemployment check every week?
The stimulus bill includes an additional $600 each week to those on unemployment for up to four months.
The Washington ESD says it may take several weeks for the system to update and adapt to the change, but you will receive any back payments you are owed.
For how long can I claim the benefits?
Most states allow eligible residents to claim unemployment benefits for 26 weeks (6.5 months), although some states offer more or less time.
Montana allows for up to 28 weeks, while Idaho is among the states that offer less time at 21 weeks.
Find the answers to more frequently asked questions in Washington here.
Find the answers to more frequently asked questions in Idaho here.