The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program in Washington State is still being developed by the Employment Security Department (ESD). Here’s what we know right now:
#1 INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS: Under the federal CARES Act, independent contractors and self-employed workers are eligible for PUA benefits (unlike regular unemployment that only applies to employees).
#2 ELIGIBILITY: The fact that certain real estate brokerage services can be provided under Governor Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order does not automatically disqualify real estate brokers from being eligible for PUA.
#3 NOT ALL BROKERS WILL QUALIFY: Some real estate brokers will not receive PUA benefits because some brokers will still perform a certain level of work during the COVID-19 crisis, and thus will not be considered unemployed or under-employed. Even though brokers may work less and will have reduced income, that does not guarantee receipt of PUA benefits.
#4 GUIDANCE IS BEING DEVELOPED: ESD is currently developing guidance for self-employed workers to determine what level of unemployment or underemployment would result in a self-employed worker receiving PUA benefits.
#5 YOU CAN APPLY NOW OR WAIT UNTIL LATER: ESD is still developing the system for applications from independent contractors, so you can wait a few weeks or months to apply. The PUA program runs until December 31, 2020. If you believe you may be considered unemployed or underemployed during March or April 2020 because of the COVID-19 crisis, you can apply now following the next steps…
#6 ACTIONS TO TAKE: ESD anticipates self-employed workers being able to apply to PUA benefits on April 20. ESD has directed self-employed workers to first complete the on-line application for regular UI benefits, solely for the purpose of being denied regular UI eligibility. Brokers should visit this website here: https://secure.esd.wa.gov/home/ and obtain a SAW (Secure Access Washington) account. Creating this account is necessary to apply for PUA in the future.
#7 A NOTE ON FILLING OUT THE APPLICATION: When self-employed real estate brokers complete this application process, they should not indicate that they have “worked 680 hours for” the real estate firm where they maintain their real estate license. This part of the regular UI application process is only for employees, not for self-employed workers. Self-employed real estate brokers should check “NO” in response to this question.
Washington REALTORS® will provide an update when new information is available.