Frequently Asked Questions on Benefits

We've compiled the most frequently asked questions related to accrued and employer-provided benefits, emergency legislation and policies, eligibility and more.

Washington

Washington’s Employment Security Department (ESD) has received an unprecedented number of applications for unemployment. Some applicants have reported delays due to this.

Washington-based union member scenario & benefits available

  • While the state encourages employees to access their “employer-paid time off,” or accrued time off as a “first and best option,” you are not required to do so.
  • PFMLA, Federal Paid FMLA, Paid Sick Leave, Workers Compensation L&I: It is possible to access accrued benefits or receive employer paid administrative leave to fill in the gaps to make yourself whole in regards to pay. As a union, we are pushing employers to provide paid administrative leave to make people whole and in the alternative, allow access to accrued leave and unfortunately some have not yet agreed to do so.
  • Unemployment: If you are laid off or have a reduction in hours and are receiving unemployment benefits, any payments received from your employer during the period of unemployment must be reported, and your unemployment benefits will be reduced by the amount you receive in the form of paid time off, so this may not be a good option for making yourself whole.
  • You can apply for unemployment, and the compensation you receive will depend on how many hours you’re able to work. The ESD has put together a chart, linked here, that calculates the amount that will be deducted from your weekly benefit amount (WBA) if you are continuing to work part time, or pick up shifts.
  • The CARES Act, further detailed below, expands unemployment to address this and other issues. See number nine for further information on options.
  • Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA): This law only applies to public employers and private employers who have less than 500 employees. The FFCRA provides covered employers the option to “exempt” healthcare providers including all employees of hospitals and nursing homes) from its provisions, but employers of healthcare providers can still provide the benefits set out in the FFCRA to their healthcare provider employees if they want to.
    • BENEFITS: (1) eligible employees may receive up to 80 hours of paid sick leave at their full rate of pay if they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms and seeking a diagnosis; (2) eligible employees may receive up to 80 hours of paid sick leave at two-thirds their normal rate of pay if unable to work due to a bona fide need to provide care for someone who is subject to quarantine or for a child whose school or child care is closed for reasons related to COVID-19; and (3) eligible employees who have been employed at least 30 days can receive up to 10 additional weeks of paid family and medical leave at two-thirds their normal rate of pay in order to care for a child whose school or childcare is closed for reasons related to COVID-19.
  • Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES): Congress significantly expanded availability of unemployment benefits in several ways:
    • Under CARES, many more people are eligible for unemployment benefits, including anyone who is unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19, including individuals who do not meet all of the standard eligibility requirements, such as the work-search requirements – if someone is temporarily laid off during the COVID-19 crisis, they can now qualify for unemployment even without searching for other work while waiting to get called back in by their employer.
    • The Federal government is funding an additional $600 per week in addition to unemployment benefits someone might be entitled to, for the duration of time someone receives unemployment through July 31, 2020.
    • While unemployment benefits are normally available for up to 26 weeks, this law expands that, so unemployment may now be available up to 39 weeks (approximately 9 months), through December 31, 2020.
  • Your next steps are going to depend on why you rejected offered work. If it’s due to an inability to work right now because you or a loved one are sick, PFMLA may be your best option if paid administrative leave is not available.
  • If it’s because you do not feel safe or able to do the work you’re being asked to do, and your employer is not offering virtual or telework options, unemployment or PUA may be an option.
  • If paid administrative leave is not available, you can seek unemployment under CARES.
  • If you cannot work, as you or a dependent has become ill as a result of being immunocompromised and working, you may qualify for PFMLA or CARES.
  • No, PFMLA is meant for those who cannot return to work now due to a serious health condition. Unemployment implies that you are capable of working and will be returning to your work or seeking new work opportunities.
  • Employers can apply for ESD’s SharedWork program as a method of reducing job loss, when they need to cut back on staffing. Employees whose hours are reduced, but are still working 50-90% of their normal work hours, may qualify to receive prorated unemployment benefits through the SharedWork program if their employer has applied for it. The ESD has put together a chart, linked here, that calculates the percentage of your weekly benefit amount (WBA) you will be eligible for in the SharedWork program, based on the number of hours you’re working.
  • Employees receiving unemployment in Washington are placed on “standby” through Stay at Home Stay Healthy. See number 10 for more information on standby.
  • If an employer is reducing operations and therefore reducing employees’ hours, the employer can request “Partial” unemployment for the employees, as long as the employees are working at least 16 hours per week.

No. The normal work-search requirements have been lifted entirely for the time being. ESD has stated that anyone going on unemployment during this time period will automatically be placed on “standby” which is an unemployment status that does not have work search requirements.  Standby status normally has other requirements and limitations, but those are also being waived at least for the duration of the Governor’s Stay at Home Stay Healthy order.

  • Due to federal legislation, benefits will be expanded to a total of 39 weeks – approximately nine months.
  • Washington has waived the one week waiting period, so benefits should begin as of the date you apply, except that under CARES, benefits are available retroactively back to January 27, 2020
  • The unemployment office is handling an unprecedented number of unemployment claims, and will issue checks on approved claims as quickly as possible, but it may take longer than usual. If you need assistance in the interim, please see additional available resources here: wa.gov
  • The state of Washington has provided additional relief including temporary moratorium on evictions, assistance with utilities, and free school lunches for children.

Per Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s proclamation on April 13:

  • Your employer must utilize all available options for alternative work assignments, e.g. telework and alternative work locations, and appropriate social distancing measures.
  • Additionally, employers must allow workers to use accrued leave or unemployment if alternative work is not available and they are not able to work traditionally.
  • If paid time off is exhausted, the employer must continue to provide the health insurance benefits that may have been tied to employment until the employee returns to work.
  • Employers also cannot take “adverse employment action” against employees who are immunocompromised through eliminating employment through permanent replacement.
  • High risk is defined through the CDC’s determination that persons over 65 years of age and people of any age who have “certain chronic underlying health conditions” are more likely to develop a severe illness or die from COVID-19.
  • Governor Inslee’s April 10 memorandum regarding Workers’ Compensation during COVID-19 states that unless there is evidence that no on-the-job exposure occurred, healthcare workers who contract COVID-19 at work, or are quarantined due to potential exposure, are eligible for Workers’ Compensation. Additionally, for employers who do not have self-insured workers’ compensation, the cost of COVID-19 related claims will not be used to calculate an employers’ future workers’ compensation premiums.

 

  • Starting on April 17, DSHS will operate a financial assistance program persons can apply for regardless of citizenship status through the Disaster Cash Assistance Program, which is intended for persons who are not eligible for other relief or income assistance.
  • The range for this is $363 to $1,121 depending on need and family size and is available once in a 12 month period.
  • Visit WashingtonConnection.org to begin the application process.
  • ESD will have to evaluate on a case by case basis, but if you have experienced a reduction in work due to COVID-19, you should be able to receive a prorated amount of unemployment benefits to offset the lost income. 
  • If you have been temporarily or permanently laid off due to COVID-19, then you should be eligible for unemployment and the amount of benefit will be calculated using your income during your base year.
  • FFCRA leave is employer-paid, so the process would be to work with the human resources department to provide whatever documentation they need to verify you qualify, then they would provide paid leave in accordance with the Act.  If you receive paid leave under the FFCRA and it is less than your full rate of pay, your employer can supplement your pay through paid administrative leave or use of accrued time off (if they agree to do so).

The state offers unemployment benefits to individuals in certain circumstances, and the Federal CARES Act has created the opportunity for people in a number of additional circumstances to receive unemployment benefits as well. The application process for either goes through the same state agency and the benefits received would be considered unemployment, whether the individual qualifies through the state eligibility rules or the CARES eligibility rules.

Montana

Montana-based 1199NW member scenario1 & benefits available

  • The benefits of the CARES Act are federal and also applicable to Montana
  • You are eligible to apply for unemployment if you are laid off or your hours are reduced, if you are directed by a medical professional to self-quarantine (mandatory quarantine), and if you accept a voluntary leave of absence. See chart for additional information.
  • For unemployment, if a return to work is planned, Montana Department of Labor & Industry is suggesting a projected return date of September 30, 2020. “If work resumes sooner, then employees will simply stop filing (for unemployment) and return to work.”
  • Payout of accrued leave is not required during a furlough or temporary layoff
  • The state of Montana has provided additional relief including prohibition on eviction of tenants and charging late fees on rentals
  • Utility services cannot be shut off during the stay-at-home order
  • Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA): This law only applies to public employers and private employers who have less than 500 employees. The FFCRA provides covered employers the option to “exempt” healthcare providers including all employees of hospitals and nursing homes) from its provisions, but employers of healthcare providers can still provide the benefits set out in the FFCRA to their healthcare provider employees if they want to.
    • BENEFITS: (1) eligible employees may receive up to 80 hours of paid sick leave at their full rate of pay if they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms and seeking a diagnosis; (2) eligible employees may receive up to 80 hours of paid sick leave at two-thirds their normal rate of pay if unable to work due to a bona fide need to provide care for someone who is subject to quarantine or for a child whose school or child care is closed for reasons related to COVID-19; and (3) eligible employees who have been employed at least 30 days can receive up to 10 additional weeks of paid family and medical leave at two-thirds their normal rate of pay in order to care for a child whose school or childcare is closed for reasons related to COVID-19.
  • Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES): Congress significantly expanded availability of unemployment benefits in several ways:
    • Under CARES, many more people are eligible for unemployment benefits, including anyone who is unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19, including individuals who do not meet all of the standard eligibility requirements, such as the work-search requirements – if someone is temporarily laid off during the COVID-19 crisis, they can now qualify for unemployment even without searching for other work while waiting to get called back in by their employer.
    • The Federal government is funding an additional $600 per week in addition to unemployment benefits someone might be entitled to, for the duration of time someone receives unemployment
    • While unemployment benefits are normally available for up to 26 weeks, this law expands that, so unemployment may now be available up to 39 weeks (approximately 9 months), through December 31, 2020.
  • Employees of KRH/KRMC are not covered by FFCRA, though will receive CARES benefits. See FAQ #23 above for more information on federal benefits.

For the first question, “Are you a member of a union,” you can select either yes or no. We consider our KRH/KRMC RNs members in our union, and you are currently in the process of bargaining your first contract and are not paying union dues. For the second and third question, both of these need to be answered “no.”

The state offers unemployment benefits to individuals in certain circumstances, and the Federal CARES Act has created the opportunity for people in a number of additional circumstances to receive unemployment benefits as well. The application process for either goes through the same state agency and the benefits received would be considered unemployment, whether the individual qualifies through the state eligibility rules or the CARES eligibility rules.