Business & workers weekly update, April 14, 2020

This is the first weekly newsletter provided by the state Economic Resiliency Team (ERT), part of the Joint Information Center at Camp Murray. The newsletter will provide news and information to help businesses and workers navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unemployment Insurance

More than 170,000 new jobless claims were filed in the state for the week ending April 4 – seven times the peak during the height of the Great Recession.

Unemployment checks from the state are going to workers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in record time with an estimated $150 million in benefits paid since the crisis began.

The state Employment Security Department (ESD) recommends workers take the following four steps to help ensure their unemployment benefits are filed correctly and start quickly:

  1. Sign up for the agency’s COVID-19 action alerts.
  2. Download and review the ESD eligibility checker. This will help workers determine if they are currently eligible for benefits.
  3. Download and read the application checklist to make sure that you have what you need.
  4. A SecureAccess Washington (SAW) account is needed to file an unemployment claim. ESD recently posted a video that explains the process to be followed in order to apply for benefits. After reviewing the video, please sign up for a SAW account.

Note: Workers who are eligible under the traditional unemployment benefits program can apply before April 18, 2020. Workers who are only eligible for benefits under the expanded federal criteria will need to wait until after April 18. If there is any question, please wait.

“This is an incredibly stressful time for everyone,” ESD Commissioner Suzi LeVine said. “Please know we're working around the clock at ESD to get Washingtonians the money that they need and give them a little peace of mind as quickly as we can.”

Business Response Center

The state Economic Resiliency Team (ERT) has started a Business Response Center to answer general business inquiries around financial help or other business assistance during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We have a whole team of people from the Department of Commerce, the Joint Information Center and volunteers from throughout state government, who are taking in those questions, creating FAQs, and getting back to people answering their concerns,” said state Department of Commerce Director Lisa Brown.

Businesses with questions can fill out a form on coronavirus.wa.gov, a one-stop portal to get information related to COVID-19.

Closed: Working Washington Small Business Emergency Response Program

A Working Washington Small Business Emergency Grant program to assist small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak was made available last week. Administered by the state’s Department of Commerce, the program can provide a limited number of businesses in Washington’s 39 counties with a grant up to $10,000.

Many counties have discontinued accepting applications at this time due to overwhelming volumes and limited staff. In total, the program has now received 20,000 applications statewide. There are a few counties still accepting applications within their service area, though we anticipate all counties will be closed by the end of the week.

State officials and our congressional delegation have been working on additional small business programs that may include grants in the future.

Visit the Business and Worker page on coronavirus.wa.gov for updates.

Stay in the Know – More Resources

This week, TVW is beginning a series, “The Impact – The Road to Recovery” with host Mike McClanahan focused on businesses and workers.

All businesses are welcome to attend AWB’s weekly COVID-19 Employer Resources Webinar Series on Mondays. In addition, the ERT has started a weekly call on Fridays with key stakeholders statewide in collaboration with the Association of Washington Business.

Archived recordings of the TVW series and the Friday sessions can be found on the Business & Worker page at coronavirus.wa.gov.