Are you prepared? How to file for unemployment benefits in Washington

SPOKANE, Wash. — There’s never been a week when so many Americans filed for unemployment as this one. Nearly 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, and that number is growing.

As of Thursday, non-essential businesses were required to shut down as part of Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order, which left many without work.

Filing for unemployment is something many are going through right now. One day you’re working a full-time job, the next, you’re being told you’re being laid off. It’s a tough time for not just employees, but their employers who have to watch them struggle.

Driving through downtown Spokane, you’ll notice how quiet it is. Storefronts are locked up and closed down.

Pistole Boardshop on West Sprague has been closed since Tuesday.

“The three employees in Coeur d’Alene are laid off for the time being. And my employees in Spokane are laid off for this time being,” said Josh Yandell, owner of Pistole Boardshop.

Yandell said it’s been a crazy time for business owners thinking of their employees.

“It’s hard, it’s harder for us to not know their future,” Yandell said.

One of Yandell’s employees at Pistole Boardshop is preparing to file for unemployment benefits.

Closer to home, his wife filed last week. She’s a nurse at Spokane Digestive Disease Center.

“People step back when they hear that one,” Yandell said. “They only have like five people staying on with certain things that they had to do for some patients, but they are a non-emergency procedure place, so they were all laid off. Then, their equipment was all donated to Sacred Heart.”

His wife said the process was fairly easy, and luckily she had help from her co-workers.

“Fairly smooth for them. I know some of the doctors there helped her out, getting it set up. All the nurses there coming together,” Yandell said.

How long it takes you to file for unemployment benefits depends on how prepared you are.

These are the materials you need to file, according to the Employment Security Department:

  • Your Social Security number.
  • Your name, birth date and contact information (for example, mailing address, phone number and email address).
  • Your highest level of education.
  • The names and mailing addresses of all your employers during the past 18 months, including part-time and temporary jobs.
  • The dates you worked for all employers in the past 18 months. Use your best estimate if you don’t remember the exact dates. Our system will not accept a future date. If you are still working, use the date you last worked before you apply for benefits.
  • If you normally get your work through a union, the name and local number of your union.
  • If you were in the military during the last 18 months, your DD-214, any member copy, 2 through 8.
  • If you were a federal employee in the past 18 months, your Standard Form 8 (SF8), “Notice To Federal Employees About Unemployment Insurance.” The Standard Form 50 (SF50), “Notice of Personnel Action” is not required, but will speed up the processing of your claim.
  • Your citizenship status. If you’re not an U.S. citizen, your work authorization information.
  • If you apply for benefits online and want to sign up for direct deposit, your account and routing numbers for your bank or credit union.

Additionally, know there is a time limit set on the online application. If you take too long, the session will time out. If it times out, you’ll have to start over again.

When filing, know the requirements.

According to the Employment Security Department’s website, you need at least 680 working hours in your base year to qualify. At least some wages must have been earned in Washington, unless you recently left the military and are currently located in Washington state.

Two students working at The Arc Thrift Store in Spokane were denied because of this.

“Really sucks. They had gotten jobs, they had apartments, now they’re most likely going to have to move back home, if they are lucky enough to have that,” said Rose Williamson, general manager for The Arc Thrift Store in Spokane.

All 30 employees at the store filed for unemployment benefits.

“You know, it’s more than just a job. You have employees who depend on you, and you have a whole culture. It’s sad,” Williamson said.

If you need to file for unemployment benefits in Washington, click HERE.

You can also file by phone at 800-318-6022, however, ESD says to be prepared to wait because of high-call volumes.