Unemployment Information for County Employees

Questions about Washington's unemployment compensation program, including eligibility, the application process, weekly benefit amounts, earnings deductions, and other topics should be directed to Employment Security Department.  Information below was compiled from the Employment Security Website and is provided as a resource for Whatcom County employees.  

The Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) is responsible for administering unemployment benefits which partially replace regular wages when you are out of work. Benefits are normally not available if you decide to quit (resign) or if you are terminated for gross misconduct.  Emergency rules issued by ESD and changes in federal law have expanded eligibility for unemployment benefits, increased the amount of time benefits may be claimed, and made additional funds available.

How to file for Unemployment Benefits:

To apply for unemployment benefits, follow the application process on ESD’s Unemployment benefits webpage. Use the ESD Checklist to understand the process and know what information you need to apply.  

If you need to provide wage and hour information, please refer to your most recent pay stub.
Use the following information to identify Whatcom County as your employer when filing your claim:
Whatcom County Human Resources
311 Grand Ave. Ste 107
Bellingham, WA 98225

EIN: 91-6001383
ESD Reference Number: 000945180109
UBI: 371010246

What information do I need when I apply? 

  • A SecureAccess Washington username and password. Visit https://secure.esd.wa.gov/home/ to create and activate an account
  • Your name (as it appears on your Social Security Card), Social Security number, birthdate, and contact information
  • Your complete work history for the past 18 months including employer name(s), address(es), Federal Identification Number and Employment Security Reference Number: Start and end date of employment for each employer
  • Your bank account and routing number, if you want to sign up for direct deposit
  • Additional information may be required depending on circumstances.

When can I apply for Unemployment?

Based on reported staff experiences, Human Resources believes you are unable to apply early for unemployment (before taking furlough)
as ESD's system does not allow entering a future date into the "first date of unemployment" field.  Please review ESD's directions online regarding how to file a weekly claim. https://esd.wa.gov/unemployment/how-to-file-a-weekly-claim

Please note, after you apply for unemployment benefits, you must submit a weekly claim the next week in order to begin receiving benefits. Then, you must submit a claim each week until you want your benefits to stop.

Do I need to notify Human Resources before applying for Unemployment?

No.  Human Resources will be notified by ESD after you file your claim. Please be sure to use the Employer information above to ensure your claim is filed correctly. 

When a furloughed employee applies for unemployment compensation with ESD, how do they indicate they have been furloughed?

ESD’s application for unemployment compensation asks the employee to choose a reason why they are separated from work. Furlough is not a listed option. Instead, for the question “Why did you separate from this employer?” select "Reduced Hours". 

Miscellaneous Tips to Avoid Common Application Issues (as published by ESD):  

  • Watch the tutorial video when setting up your account. This is not the most intuitive process, especially if there’s a chance you may already have a SecureAccess (SAW) account. Watching this 9-minute video may save you a lot of time.  
  • Enter your name as it appears on your Social Security card. For example, if your Social Security card says “Robert T Smith” then enter that. Do not enter Robert Smith or Bob Smith. If you have married or changed your legal name but have not updated that name with the Social Security Administration, enter your prior name as it shows on your card. 
  • Double check your Social Security number and date of birth before submitting your application.  
  • Read questions carefully before answering. 
  • Select “no” on the job search question (in the weekly claim). Job search is currently optional as a result of the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” initiative, so selecting no is the best option. Changes to job search requirements will be posted on the ESD website at esd.wa.gov. 
  • Avoid manually entering employer information by entering Whatcom County's Federal EIN, 91-6001383.
  • Be sure to get a confirmation number proving you submitted your application. If you exit the application before receiving a confirmation number, you will lose any information you entered and you’ll have to start over. You will also need the number if you exit and return to the application later. 

Qualifying criteria for WA State unemployment:

Under WA state law individuals are eligible for benefits if they:

  • Have worked for at least 680 hours in WA during the “base year” (the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters) in a position included in WA’s unemployment program.
  • Have worked in WA State sometime in the last 18 months.
  • Have been laid off or fired (unless for gross misconduct).
  • Are looking and available for work, except if on standby while temporarily laid off.

New qualifying criteria for unemployment - ESD Emergency Rules:

Under the ESD emergency rules issued in response to the COVID-19 emergency, you may now be eligible for unemployment benefits when you are not receiving wages from Whatcom County and:
  • You do not have COVID-19 related symptoms and are asked by a medical professional or public health official to quarantine as a result of COVID-19.
  • You are temporarily laid off (on “standby”) 
    • During standby due to COVID-19, you do not have to look for another job while you collect unemployment benefits, so long as you stay in contact with Whatcom County.  However, you must accept any offered work you can do without breaking isolation or quarantine, such as telework.
    • Your hours are reduced due to a lack of work.
    • You meet CDC guidelines for being at high risk for COVID-19 and were laid off on or after March 23, 2020.
Additionally, under the ESD emergency rules issued in response to the COVID-19 crisis:
  • Work search requirements are optional for all claimants until further notice.
  • The one-week waiting period to be eligible for unemployment benefits is currently waived through July 4, 2020 unless otherwise extended.
  • As of April 15, ESD is initially placing all individuals on standby in order to process requests more quickly.

Unemployment under CARES Act:

The federal CARES Act, signed into law March 27, 2020, resulted in three key changes:
  1. Expanded eligibility to people who don’t usually qualify because they don’t have the typically required 680 hours, or are otherwise excluded under WA State law (may include student employees).
  2. An additional $600 each week will be paid to those on unemployment from March 29, 2020 through the week ending July 25, 2020.
  3. Benefits will be available for longer, up to 39 weeks (usually up to 26 weeks) for both people already on unemployment and those who are newly eligible.
Use the second page of ESD’s Eligibility Checker to help figure out if you are eligible for unemployment benefits due to a layoff or reduction in hours related to COVID-19, either under ESD’s emergency rules or the federal CARES Act.

For the most up-to-date information, view ESD’s frequently asked questions about the CARES Act.

Benefit Amount:

The amount of paid unemployment benefit is determined by ESD. The amount can be estimated using this ESD tool. The amount of paid unemployment benefits may also increase due to the CARES Act. Individuals eligible for unemployment report any earnings as part of a “weekly claim,” including payments from Whatcom County such as wages or paid time off (e.g. holiday pay), which may reduce the weekly benefit amount. For more detail visit https://esd.wa.gov/unemployment/calculate-your-benefit.  Human Resources is unable to assist with benefit calculation estimates.

How do earnings affect weekly benefit amounts?

Individuals report earnings in their weekly claim. If the individual receives pay from Whatcom County such as wages or paid time off (e.g., holiday pay, hours worked, or other paid time off), their unemployment compensation claim is reduced. The formula for the earnings offset is (Gross Weekly Wage minus $5) times 75%. When the earnings deduction is equal to or more than the weekly benefit, the individual is not eligible for benefit payments.

Will I be eligible for Unemployment if I take one furlough day per week?

According to Employment Security:  Since unemployment benefits are determined on a weekly basis, full-time workers whose hours of work are reduced by one work day each week usually will not be eligible for partial unemployment benefits because they earn too much in the week to be eligible.

What if I've been a victim of Unemployment Fraud?

Employees must report potential fraud to ESD through the steps listed below as soon as they suspect fraud. This is because ESD has the legal authority to investigate fraud as well as stop fraudulent claims from being paid.

Employees who are victims of fraud should complete the secure fraud reporting form ESD has provided on its benefits fraud page.
The secure fraud reporting form asks for the following:
  1. First name and last name
  2. Date of birth
  3. Last four digits of your SSN
  4. Street address
  5. Contact information
  6. Claimant or Letter ID
  7. A brief description of how you found out an impostor-fraud claim was filed using your information. We suggest: “I received a letter about unemployment benefits but I have not applied for benefits. Please deny and cancel the claim.”
  8. Your permission to cancel the impostor-fraud claim filed using your information.
After reporting the fraud to ESD, employees should also notify Human Resources.