Resources for small businesses and unemployment benefits
Dear friends and neighbors,
The COVID-19 pandemic has intensely affected Washington’s economy across many industries, and has been especially hard on small businesses. Gov. Jay Inslee recently announced additional steps to help small businesses mitigate some of the economic impacts:
- The Working Washington Small Business Grant, through the Governor’s Strategic Reserve Fund and administered by the Washington State Department of Commerce with the help of county economic development organizations. The grants will provide up to $10,000 for small businesses under 10 employees. Businesses can use this money to pay for rent, utility bills, supplies, inventory and other operating expenses. To apply for an emergency grant, visit coronavirus.wa.gov.
- Business resiliency assistance, through the Washington State Department of Commerce by partnering with organizations that serve economically disadvantaged communities across the state.
- Forgivable loans, through the U.S. Small Business Administration. Small businesses, non-profits, independent contractors or self-employed individuals in need of financial help may be eligible for a forgivable loan from the SBA. Beginning last Friday, local banks began taking SBA applications and issuing forgivable loans. For more information go to sba.gov.
Update: Employment Security Department
Washington’s Employment Security Department (ESD) has received an unprecedented flood of applications for assistance and extremely high numbers of phone calls and emails. They are doing the best they can to meet this need by hiring additional staff, expanding service hours and upgrading their technology.
Many people also have questions about the recent federal stimulus package and the enhancements to eligibility and available benefits for individuals. To address your questions and to find out more information, please do not call their toll-free numbers first, instead:
IMPORTANT: ESD officials have said that if an issue can only be resolved by speaking to an agent, they should continue calling, even if they must do so repeatedly. Thousands of individuals are getting through by phone every day. They have assured us that regardless of when a person gets through, they will receive retroactive payments back to their eligibility date.
Secure Access Washington ID authentication fix
Users with multiple accounts or with accounts set up on old email addresses they can no longer access, would get locked out of the system and required them to call to reset their information. Since getting through over the phone is not easy under current conditions, ESD rolled out a fix to the Secure Access Washington identification authentication system. This fix will make a significant difference for a number of people trying to access the system.
Federal CARES Act implementation
The ESD is preparing for the implementation of federal relief packages included in the CARES Act by upgrading their technology systems. Beginning April 18, ESD can begin accepting applications for the three main elements of the new law:
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance: expands benefits to those directly impacted by COVID-19 who are not otherwise eligible for Unemployment Insurance in Washington State. This will be available until December 26, 2020 and is retroactive to February 2, 2020.
- Pandemic Unemployment Compensation: increases the weekly benefit amount by $600 increase for all unemployment assistance recipients (including those already on Unemployment Insurance or participating in SharedWork). It runs until July 25, 2020 and is retroactive to March 29, 2020.
- Pandemic Emergency Compensation: adds 13 additional weeks of benefits on top of the standard 26 weeks (if needed). It runs until December 26, 2020 and is retroactive to March 29, 2020.
All of these benefits will be retroactively paid from the time people lost their jobs or otherwise became eligible under the federal CARES Act. So, once approved, they will receive a lump sum payment of all benefits that are owed to them at that point. They will then be able to file weekly claims for benefits moving forward.
Independent contractors, self-employed and less than 680 hours
These benefits will expand support for individuals who typically do not qualify for unemployment insurance, such as those who are self-employed, independent contractors and those without enough hours in the previous year. This will make a tremendous difference for many families in our state. The best course of action for those not currently eligible for Unemployment Insurance, is to go to the ESD website and sign up for COVID action alerts. This will be the fastest way to get the most up-to-date information about when and how they can access their benefits.
During this difficult period, state legislators are regularly meeting virtually to discuss new developments and potential solutions to help all our communities. It is up to the governor to order us back for a special session, and if he decides this is what Washington needs, we are ready to do our part.
We hope you and your families are staying healthy.
Rep. Mia Gregerson & Rep. Tina Orwall