Unemployment Application Process for Independent Contractors

The Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) has updated its systems to support unemployment benefits applications from independent contractors. Below is a brief overview of the process independent contractors are using to file for unemployment benefits, and how you might be involved as a person who works with independent contractors.

For independent contractors to be eligible for unemployment benefits under the CARES Act and its Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, the law requires that independent contractors first apply for regular unemployment benefits, and be denied on account of their status as independent contractors. When filling out the regular unemployment application, independent contractors will be asked to list all jobs/employers in the last 18 months. Per instructions from ESD, independent contractors should not list any employers when asked. Some independent contractors may not be aware of this instruction and may list your business as their employer. When this happens, you may receive a letter/questionnaire from ESD seeking “employer” responses to the contractor’s unemployment claim. Please see our recent advisory for recommendations on how to respond to these letters.

Once the independent contractors are denied regular unemployment, they will then be able to proceed with applying for pandemic unemployment assistance. Independent contractors will need to provide their federal tax return or 1099 form as proof of income. If the independent contractors are approved, they will need to file weekly claims with ESD until they find work.

Trust this overview of the process helps. See this ESD Alert for further details.

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