The state of Washington will use federal coronavirus relief funds to pay close to 100,000 unemployment recipients this week, a move Gov. Jay Inslee says is necessitated by lack of additional assistance from Congress.
“We are providing a bridge for some Washingtonians until the federal government finally acts,” Inslee said in a statement, noting that a midnight deadline to extend the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program passed without President Donald Trump signing a relief bill passed by both chambers of Congress last week. “It is extremely unfortunate that the president has missed the deadline and allowed much-needed unemployment benefits to lapse for struggling workers and families.”
The bill, signed by President Trump on Sunday night, would extend the unemployment program through March 14.
The state will pay $550 to 94,555 people who applied for the unemployment benefit by Nov. 21. Washington will use $54 million allotted as part of the CARES relief bill, passed in March, to cover the benefit, which should match what most recipients receive for a two-week period, according to a news release from the state’s Employment Security Department.
Those who are eligible must have applied for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, and are not receiving regular unemployment benefits, assistance through the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation or Extended Benefits, programs previously instituted to cover the larger number of unemployed workers during the pandemic.
“The team at ESD has been working around the clock to get this new program ready,” said Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine in a statement Sunday. “We will issue these one-time payments this week so that eligible claimants will have the funds as they head into the New Year.”
The state hopes to issue the payments by Wednesday, according to a news release. Those eligible for the payments do not need to take any additional steps to receive them.
Payments to eligible Washington residents will be made in bank or credit union accounts, or on an unemployment debit card. The Employment Security Department is asking recipients to check the status of their payment online, rather than calling the department’s busy phone lines.
The department reported Washington’s unemployment rate was 6% in November, the most recent month for which data was available. Spokane County’s rate stood at 6.7%.
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