On February 8, 2021, Governor Jay Inslee signed SSB 5061, which expands Washington’s unemployment insurance benefits to high-risk individuals and members of their households, who voluntarily quit their jobs during a public health emergency such as the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. The Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) can begin providing benefits to those individuals starting April 4, 2021, during the weeks of a public health emergency. The new law allows these unemployed individuals to meet the “able and available for work” benefits requirements if they are able to perform, available to perform, and actively seeking suitable work which can be performed from their home. To determine “suitable work,” ESD must consider the degree of risk to the health of the individual or those who live with that individual.
Tips: If you have high-risk employees who are struggling with the prospect of returning to the workplace, or employees resisting return because they live with a high-risk individual, you may want to inform them about this expanded benefits eligibility. Check the ESD COVID-19 information website for more on the temporary benefits that are currently available, before the new law takes effect.