Gov. Inslee extends pandemic unemployment benefits

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Sunday that the state will provide funding for nearly 100,000 Washingtonians who will lose federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits.

This follows President Donald Trump’s refusal to sign a $900 billion aid package before midnight Sunday. However, it was not until late Sunday that the president signed the COVID-19 stimulus bill into law, but his delay still required Washington state to fill in the gap, costing struggling Washingtonians a week of PUA benefits.

Inslee released this statement before Trump signed the COVID-19 relief package:

“We are providing a bridge for some Washingtonians until the federal government finally acts. 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 relief bill was negotiated by his own administration, supported by both Republicans and Democrats and passed with overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate. His last-minute demands can and should be dealt with separately, but instead, the president has chosen to hold the entire relief package hostage.”

“In our state, we prepared for the possibility of a lapse in benefits and in anticipating it, we developed a plan for a one-time payment for those who have been receiving PUA benefits. Because we established a state backup plan, we can take action today to help some of those harmed by the president’s decision.”

“Today, I am announcing that Washington State will provide $54 million to extend a one-time Pandemic Relief Payment to 94,555 people in our state who have been claiming PUA and will be immediately impacted by the lapse in federal benefits. The Employment Security Department will be issuing this state benefit later this week. This does not solve all the problems caused by the president’s inaction — we are doing what we can, but we simply do not have the ability to replace all of the unemployment supports in the relief package. However, for some people in our state who have been receiving PUA benefits, this will prevent an immediate loss of assistance at a time when they are most in need.”

“Families and businesses will face devastating consequences if the president continues to block the bipartisan package. Hopefully he does the right thing and ultimately signs the bill. But, even if the legislation is signed in the days ahead, thousands of Washingtonians will lose at least a week of pandemic unemployment assistance — and that is unacceptable to me.”

The Washington State Employment Security Department will issue emergency payments to all PUA claimants determined to be in an active status the week ending Nov. 21. The payments will total $550 per claimant, which the state says equates to roughly two weeks of benefits for most recipients.

The PUA program provides federal unemployment benefits for those not eligible for regular unemployment insurance.