The first extra unemployment payments of $600 a week should start showing up for current Washington jobless benefit recipients next week. If those beneficiaries are already receiving payments, the extra funds will be paid retroactive to March 29, said Nick Demerice, spokesman for the state’s Employment Security Department. If someone is applying for new benefits, it should take seven to 10 days to get the first payments unless there are issues or fact-finding required. The $600 a week, which will be added to regular state benefits, results from the $2.2 trillion federal economic aid package President Donald Trump signed into law March 27. The extra money is available to qualified recipients through the end of July. At the state agency, “We are on track to implement that technology upgrade on Saturday. It will be available starting that afternoon,” Demerice said. Washington saw an estimated 150,516 new claims filed last week. Since the coronavirus crisis erupted in mid-March, about 631,000 people have filed initial claims. During the week ending April 4, the number of initial claims was up 2,627% over the same week a year earlier. Almost everyone getting benefits, or getting them during the coronavirus crisis, can get 13 extra weeks for a total maximum of 39 weeks. The additional 13 weeks will be available through Dec. 26. The department does advise that if someone has exhausted benefits from a claim that expired on or after July 6, 2019, they should continue to file their weekly claim. “You will be paid retroactively after our systems are updated for the new federal legislation,” the department says. It urges people to try to get questions answered online. Phones are jammed. One question often asked: Do gig workers qualify? “Coverage under Washington’s unemployment insurance law is broader than under most other laws. This means that just because you are classified as an independent contractor under some laws does not mean that you are an independent contractor under Washington’s unemployment laws. “If you are a gig worker who has been laid off or lost work, we encourage you to apply for benefits. We will evaluate each application for eligibility on a case by case basis. You may also be eligible for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance,” the department said. Gig workers may find the online application difficult, and the department has said it is “not currently designed for the way you work.” But, it added, it is working to resolve those issues, and in the meantime, “fill it out the best that you can.”. *By David Lightman via The News Tribune*

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