Gov. Jay Inslee today signed a bill that will increase minimum unemployment benefits for workers and provide tax relief for businesses over the next five years to support recovery from the economic impacts of COVID-19 shutdowns, his office announced.
The bill, SB 5061, was the first to pass out of the Legislature this session. It relieves employers of individual benefit charges for claims between March 22 and May 30, 2020, when Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order was in place. It also caps certain tax rates through 2025, according to a story posted on the governor’s Medium page.
The legislation prevents a $1.7 billion spike in unemployment taxes over the next five years, including about $920 million in rate increases this year, the story says.
The legislation also increases the minimum unemployment benefit starting July 1. It follows a budget authorization by the governor in November that added more than $9.5 million to resolve unemployment claims adjudication issues, hire 60 more adjudicators and 32 dual language agents, and increase technology support and materials translation.
The bill also makes policy updates to ensure Washington’s unemployment insurance system is more nimble and responsive during public health emergencies. This includes eligibility for individuals at high risk for severe illness and their family members, and improvements to the state’s Voluntary Contributions Program, which allows employers to buy-down rate increases even further, the story notes.
Businesses and individuals won’t face any additional processes in order to receive the deductions or increased benefits.
The bill was crafted with support from the Employment Security Department and its Unemployment Insurance Advisory Committee, which is composed of representatives from statewide business and labor organizations.