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.

Updated August 19, 2020

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

GENERAL

1.   If I’m receiving, or hoping to receive, state or federal benefits, can my accrued time off supplement this amount to make me whole?

  • 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 as an alternative, allow access to accrued leave and unfortunately some have not yet agreed to do.
  • 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 is not a good option for making yourself whole.

2.   Who can utilize FFCRA?

  • 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 choose 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.

3.   If I reject offered work, what are my options for being paid?

  • 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 have an underlying health concern and 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 may be an It is highly recommended that you get a note from your medical provider recommending that you stay at home due to the underlying condition.

4.    I have to remain at home with my child(ren). What resources are available?

  • If you work for a public employer or private employer with under 500 employees, and they agree not to exempt you from the FFCRA benefits as a healthcare provider, you should qualify for to the Paid Sick Leave and Paid Family and Medical Leave provisions of that law if your child(ren)’s school or child care is closed for reasons related to COVID-19. If you’re outside of Seattle, call Child Care Resources at 1-800-446-1114.
  • The DSHS site has links to Child care Aware, Families, Friends and Neighbor program, and a map of WA with child care available for health care workers district-by-district
  • If you are the primary caregiver and a child (or other family member for whom you are the primary caregiver) is unable to attend school or another facility as a direct result of COVID-19, you may qualify for unemployment insurance through the CARES Act’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).

5.    I’m concerned about doing any direct patient care right now because I or a loved one are immunocompromised and my employer is not allowing/providing virtual work. Should I seek state/federal benefits?

  • If paid administrative leave is not available, you can seek unemployment – it is highly recommended that you obtain a note from your medical provider advising you to stay at home.
  • 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.

6.   I don’t think I’m eligible for any assistance through unemployment, workers’ compensation, PFMLA, or other means. Are there other options?

  • Governor Inslee has announced the creation of the Immigrant Relief Fund, which will provide $40 million to Washington residents who are unable to access federal/ other state programs due to their immigration status. Currently the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services has issued a request for proposals for a non-profit to administer the fund, and then the selected organization will work with community organizations to distribute the awards to individuals. Eligible individuals will be able to access $1,000. This funding should become accessible later in the fall. More information on the Immigrant Relief Fund is located here.
  • Through August, 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.
  • Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) is a one-time food benefit for children grades K-12 who were eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. P-EBT provides up to $399 per eligible child, and the funding is not subject to public charge and does not impact a child or their caregiver’s immigration status. Deadline to apply is Friday, September 11th. Learn more and apply at Washington Connection.

7.   What other supports are available? 

UNEMPLOYMENT

Employment Security Department (ESD) has worked to resolve claims filed between March 8-June 18 by July 31, and have resolved almost all claims. If you have applied for unemployment, and have not received it, please contact COVIDLegalAid@seiu1199nw.org – please include a brief description of your situation, the date you originally filed, and your Claimant ID.

The provision of the CARES Act that allowed for an additional $600 weekly expired on July 25. Future relief packages may allow for additional funds to be received for those who qualify for unemployment. We will work to update changes to this page as they happen.

8.   When does my unemployment begin?

  • Washington has waived the one-week waiting period, so benefits should begin as of the date you apply.

9.   How long can I receive unemployment for?

  • The standard length of WA unemployment benefits is up to 26 weeks, but under the Federal unemployment options, benefits may be received for up to a total of 46 weeks — approximately ten and a half months.
  • The Lost Wages Assistance Program is a federal program that adds $300 per week for as many weeks as the program is funded. If you receive unemployment benefits for the approved weeks and you are unemployed or working fewer hours due to disruptions caused by COVID-19, you may be eligible for benefits. The benefit weeks currently approved for the program are those weeks ending August 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 and September 5.

10.   Can I receive PFMLA and Unemployment Insurance at the same time?

  • 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.

11.   What is the difference between regular unemployment and the SharedWork agreement?

  • Employers can apply for ESD’s SharedWork program as a method of reducing layoffs 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.
  • 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.

Montana

Montana-based 1199NW member scenario & benefits available

  1. In Montana, the Department of Labor and Industry (L&I) oversee both Workers’ Compensation and Unemployment Insurance
  2. Federal Paid sick leave is through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The FFCRA does not cover KRH as an employer and is therefore members do not have access to it. More information re: FFCRA is in number 13 below.
  3. Workers’ Compensation will not cover most workers who could become infected with COVID-19 – however exceptions exist for “health care and emergency medical services (EMS) workers who would be placed in a higher risk of exposure through their covered employment.”
  4. The provision of the CARES act that allowed for an additional $600 weekly expired on July 25th. Future relief packages may allow for additional funds to be received for those who qualify for unemployment. We will work to update changes to this page as they happen.

12.   I started applying for unemployment and came across three questions regarding whether I’m a union member. How do I fill this out?

  • 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.”

13.   What are the new federal laws expanding benefits for people affected by COVID-19?

  • 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.

14.   Do I qualify for FMLA, and if so, what does that mean for me?

  • FMLA applies to public agencies and most private sector employers. To be eligible, an employee must have worked 1,250 hours in the 12 months prior to their attempted leave, and have worked for the employer for at least 12 months. FMLA allows for employees to take up to 12 work weeks of unpaid, job protected leave in a 12-month period, which the employer may designate as a calendar year or as a date renewing annually on a set date. The 12 weeks of leave may be taken all at once or may be broken up as needed.
  • Employees can utilize FMLA for the following reasons:
    • Birth and/or bonding with newborn child;
    • Placement of child for adoption or foster care/ to bond with that child;
    • To care for immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent (not parent “in-law”)) with a serious health condition;
    • To take medical leave when the employee cannot work due to a serious health condition;
    • “Qualifying exigencies arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is on covered duty or call to covered active duty status as a member of the National Guard, Reserves, or Regular Armed Forces.
  • Of note, FMLA is unpaid leave. It is possible employees can access paid leave from accrued banks, or if there are agreements with their Employer to support members who request FMLA due to acquiring COVID-19, or a dependent acquiring COVID-19.

15.   Where can I find additional resources about benefits and financial assistance?