Am I eligible for Washington unemployment?

Washington state administers unemployment benefits through the Washington State Employment Security Department. The Washington unemployment department, also referred to as ESD, is your go-to resource when filing unemployment insurance claims in Washington.

These benefits, which are not based on financial need, are funded via taxes paid by your previous employer and are designed to stand in for wages to help cover your cost of living while you search for another job. Washington unemployment benefits are only available to those who are out of work due to no fault of their own and those who are willing and able to work and searching for work. While you receive state of Washington unemployment benefits, you are required to take steps to get back to work as quickly as possible.

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How Unemployment Works in Washington

And How To Get Unemployment in Washington

  1. Apply for Washington unemployment as soon as you are out of work. You can only file an application online through the Washington unemployment website or over the phone. 
  2. If you meet Washington unemployment eligibility standards, you are on your way to getting compensation. You should hear back from the state unemployment agency within several days to two weeks.
  3. If you meet Washington unemployment benefits eligibility, you are entitled to receive funds. Washington unemployment compensation ranges between $169 and $713 per week.
  4. If you do not meet Washington unemployment qualifications and your claim is rejected, you have the right to an appeals hearing. This takes place over the phone, and gives you the opportunity to state your case.
  5. The Washington unemployment department mandates that you have a one-week waiting period after your claim has been accepted. This means that you will begin getting your funds two weeks after you file.
  6. After your benefits begin, you will be required to show proof of job searching, which is done online or over the phone by submitting a Washington unemployment weekly claim.

What Washington unemployment eligibility requirements must I meet? 

To receive unemployment benefits in Washington you must meet all of the following eligibility criteria:

  • Worked in the state of WA in the last 18 months
    If you did not work in Washington within the last 18 months, you should file your unemployment insurance claim in the state where you worked. One exception to this rule is individuals who were in the military or held a job with the federal government.
  • Worked enough hours in your base year
    A base year is a span of time used to determine your benefit eligibility and benefit amount. It is the first four out of the previous five calendar quarters before the week you apply for benefits. So, if you apply for benefits on January 1, 2017 ESD will look at your earnings in October 2015 through September 2016. You need to have worked at least 680 hours during your base year to be eligible for benefits.
  • The reason you are not working is not your fault
  • During the application process, ESD will examine the reason you are no longer working, which may include you:
    • Being laid off
    • Being fired
    • Quitting your job
    • Being discharged from military service
    • Became involved with a labor dispute or strike
    • Have taken a leave of absence
    • Are working at least some hours each week

Everyone’s circumstance is different and not all of these reasons entitle you to receive benefits. ESD will determine if your unemployment status is due to no fault of your own. 

  1.  You are available to work and looking for a job
  2. To be eligible for unemployment benefits in Washington, you must be able and available for work. This means you have the mental and physical capacity and legal right to work every day you claim benefits. Examples of times when you are not able and available for work include vacation, sickness, no transportation and inadequate childcare. In these situations, you are unable or unavailable for work and collecting benefits is considered fraud. 

How do I apply for Washington unemployment benefits?

The online application is available 24/7 at esd.wa.gov. This is the quickest and most efficient method to file your claim. If you do not have access to a computer, you may use one free of charge at a WorkSource center near you.  

By applying online, you will also be able to: 

  • Gain access to online Washington unemployment weekly claims reports
  • See how much your benefit payments will be
  • Read and respond to messages from ESD
  • Update personal information
  • Sign up for direct deposit or debit card payments
  • Ask questions
  • Apply for training
  • And more  

To apply online and gain access to these online services:

  • Use a SecureAccess Washington (SAW) account to log in to eServices
  • If you already have a SAW account through WorkSourceWA.com or a different state service you may use those credentials to log in. Otherwise create a new account.
  • Verify your identity by answering the questions 
  • This is only required the first time you sign in. Be sure to answer accurately so you are not locked out of the system. This screening prevents identity theft and protects your information.
  • Follow the prompts to confirm the computer or mobile device you are using is safe.
    You will only need to do this once for each device you use to log on.  

Check Your Eligibility

Absolutely RISK-FREE & Confidential Evaluation!

I acknowledge and understand that by submitting this Contact Request form through clicking "Check Eligibility!", I provide my express consent to the following: (1) That I am bound by Eligibility.com LLC’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use; (2) That I am not required to submit this form, and thereby agree to all terms located herein, as a condition to receive any property, goods, or services that may be offered, and that I may revoke my consent at any time.

Alternatively, you may reach the claims center at (800) 318-6022 to file an application over the phone. However, long wait times should be expected. Phone applications are accepted Tuesday-Friday, not including holidays, from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. When to call is determined by the last number of your Social Security number:

  • Call Tuesday if it ends in 0, 1, 2 or 3
  • Call Wednesday if it ends in 4, 5 or 6
  • Call Thursday if it ends in 7, 8, or 9
  • Anyone can call on Friday.

It is not possible to file Washington unemployment paperwork in person; there are no Washington unemployment office locations open to the public. 

Your claim becomes active the Sunday after it is filed, despite when you last worked, so applying later in the week has no effect on benefits.

What information do I need to apply for Washington unemployment benefits? 

To determine eligibility you will need to provide the following information and documentation during the application process, whether it’s online or over the phone:

  • Social security number
  • Name, DOB and contact information (mailing address, phone number, email)
  • Citizenship status, plus work authorization if you are not a citizen
  • Highest education level attained
  • Name, contact information (mailing address) and dates worked for previous employers over the last 18 months, including part time or temporary jobs
  • Name and contact information for your union, if applicable
  • DD-214, any member copy, 2-8 if you were in the military in the last 18 months
  • Standard Form 8 (SF8), "Notice To Federal Employees About Unemployment Insurance" if you were a federal employee in the last 18 months
  • Bank or credit union account and routing numbers if you wish to set up direct deposit.

You should have this information and documentation ready before you start your application. The online application automatically logs out after 15 minutes of inactivity, while phone representatives are not permitted to hold while applicants look for information. Be prepared. 

How will I know if my Washington unemployment benefit application was received? 

Once you submit your online application you will be taken to a confirmation page indicating the application has been received. Read this page carefully as it includes important information you are required to know. Write down your confirmation number and keep it for your records. If you have any questions about the information presented you should call the claims center to speak with a specialist. 

If you provided your email address you will also receive an email confirmation. Be sure to regularly check your email and regular mail as ESD uses both methods to communicate about benefits to those who apply online and by phone. 

How much will my unemployment insurance payments be? How soon will I get paid? How long can I receive benefits? 

The amount you receive each week from unemployment benefits is determined by your wages during your base year. In WA, this payment is 3.85 percent of the average of the two quarters during your base year that you earned the most money. If you are eligible, ESD will send a Statement of Benefits, Wages and Hours that indicates how much your benefit payments will be.  

The maximum weekly benefit in Washington is $713 and the minimum weekly benefit is $169. Anyone eligible for benefits will receive at least $169, regardless of income. Though you will not know your exact benefit amount until you receive your Statement of Benefits, Wages and Hours you may estimate your benefits using ESD’s online tool.

If determined eligible, you will receive your first payment after you file a weekly claim, during your second week of unemployment after filing. You will not receive benefits for the first week the claim was made. Payments may arrive on different days each week. However, if you do not receive a benefit payment within seven days of it being sent, you should contact the claims center or ask a question in the eServices portal.

You can receive benefits for up to one benefit year. The benefit year begins the Sunday of the week you apply. You may receive a maximum of 26 times your weekly benefit amount or one-third of your aggregate base year wages. In some situations, such as a high Washington unemployment rate, the state may offer additional help. If you have not found work before your benefits expire, it may be possible to file for a Washington unemployment extension.

Check Your Eligibility

Absolutely RISK-FREE & Confidential Evaluation!

I acknowledge and understand that by submitting this Contact Request form through clicking "Check Eligibility!", I provide my express consent to the following: (1) That I am bound by Eligibility.com LLC’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use; (2) That I am not required to submit this form, and thereby agree to all terms located herein, as a condition to receive any property, goods, or services that may be offered, and that I may revoke my consent at any time.

Can I appeal the decision if my Washington unemployment benefit claim is denied? 

According to Washington unemployment laws, you have the right to file an appeal of most decisions regarding unemployment benefits in Washington, including: 

  • Eligibility for benefits
  • Eligibility for training
  • Information on your Statement of Benefits, Wages and Hours  

You must file your claim within 30 days via eServices, mail or fax. If you file later than 30 days you need to document why the claim is late. Unless you provide an adequate reason, your claim will likely be denied.  

If you do not file your claim online, it should be faxed or mailed to the address or fax number found on your decision letter. No claims will be accepted via email. When submitting via fax or ail, include the following:

  • Name
  • Claimant ID OR last for numbers of your Social Security number
  • Date of the decision you are appealing
  • Reason you are appealing
  • Records or documents you want considered in the appeal decision
  • Names of witnesses you want called at the hearing, if applicable
  • Reason the appeal is late, if applicable
  • Signature (appeals without a signature cannot be filed)

Once ESD receives your appeal, it will provide you with information on your rights and responsibilities. Your appeal will then be forwarded to the Office of Administrative Hearings, which is separate from ESD. The Office of Administrative Hearings will tell you when the hearing will be and whether it will be conducted in person or by phone. Most unemployment benefit hearings are held over the phone.  

During the hearing you will have a chance to testify and present evidence and witnesses to support your claim. If your claim is denied, you may petition the Commissioner’s Review Office at ESD for a review, which can be filed via eServices or mail. You will need to include the information from your original appeal as well as the Washington unemployment number from your appeal case. If you do not file online through the Washington unemployment website, your petition for review should be mailed to:

Commissioner’s Review Office
PO Box 9555
Olympia, WA 98507-9555

If you have questions about why your claim was denied, you can contact a Washington unemployment office to learn more.

WA Unemployment Related Key Terms 

  • Able: The state of being mentally and physically capable and legally authorized to work. 
  • Available: The state of being immediately willing and ready to accept suitable work in your field.
  • Base year: 52-week period used to determine your Washington unemployment amount. In WA, it is the first four of the last five quarters before the week you apply for benefits.
  • Benefit year: 52-week period during which you can receive benefits beginning the Sunday of the week you first apply for benefits.
  • Earnings: Gross total (before deductions) paid to you for wor  
  • Overpayment: Amount of unemployment benefits paid to you that you were not eligible to receive. Must be paid back to ESD.  
  • Statement of Benefits, Wages and Hours: A formal notice sent by ESD documenting the number of hours and wages earned reported by your former employer(s), your weekly benefit amount and maximum total benefits, any additional information needed
  • Waiting week: The week during which you are first not working and file a Washington unemployment claim. No benefits are paid during or for this period. 
  • Weekly benefit amount (WBA): Monetary amount you are eligible to receive in unemployment benefits each week.
  • Weekly claim: Request for benefit payment, you must file a Washington unemployment weekly claim, which shows you are searching for new employment. 
  • WorkSource center: An ESD partner network of more than 60 sites offering access to job search assistance and training free of charge. Participating in job search activities through the WorkSource center is one way to fulfill the job search requirement of receiving benefits.

How to Contact the Washington Unemployment Insurance Program 

You may submit questions about your Washington unemployment benefits eligibility, filing a Washington unemployment application, filing a weekly claim, receiving benefit checks and qualifying for special benefits or overpayments online through eServices or by calling the Washington unemployment phone number at (800) 318-6022. The hearing or speaking impaired should contact Washington Relay Service 711.