Unemployment assistance for independent contractors

Updated on Monday, April 27, 2020

The Washington State Employment Security Department’s (ESD) Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program under the federal CARES Act is under way. 

The ESD hosted a free webinar for REALTORS® to provide details on the program and to discuss eligibility, filing requirements, and other information. Commonly asked questions were also addressed in the webinar.

Watch the recording

Latest FAQ by WR

Please visit the ESD page below for an application checklist, an eligibility checker, and to apply.

Updated on Monday, April 13, 2020

From Washington REALTORS®:

Under the federal CARES Act, PUA will be implemented in Washington State by the ESD. Because PUA is for workers like independent contractors who do not qualify for regular state unemployment, independent contractors should first apply to ESD for regular unemployment benefits. REALTORS® who will be fully or partially unemployed because of the COVID-19 crisis and are interested in seeking PUA benefits should apply NOW for regular unemployment.

To apply, you will need to set up a Secure Access Washington (SAW) account at the ESD website here: Set up SAW Account

Independent contractors who apply for regular unemployment will be denied–but obtaining a SAW account, applying for regular unemployment, and being denied are required preliminary steps to then apply for PUA later this month.

ESD now estimates that PUA applications can be filed on Tuesday, April 20.

ESD’s tutorial

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020. It provides relief to families, small businesses, and individuals who are self-employed and independent contractors.

The Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) is currently in the process of establishing its online system to accept applications for unemployment benefits under the CARES Act.

Those eligible can receive Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which will be administered by ESD in Washington State.

The ESD estimates that updates to its online application system will allow for applications from independent contractors and the self-employed by Tuesday, April 20.

Who may be eligible to receive Pandemic Unemployment Assistance?

The unemployment assistance is available to the following individuals impacted as a result of COVID-19 between January 27 – December 31, 2020:

  • Self-employed individuals or partially unemployed,
  • Independent contractors, and
  • Other individuals who are unable to work as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency, and would not qualify for regular unemployment benefits under state law.

Excluded are individuals who can telework with pay and individuals who are receiving sick leave or other paid leave benefits.

Helpful Links:

Application for PUA is out now!

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Information on ESD

Sign up for ESD COVID-19 action alerts