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Independent contractors, and others so far shut out, can begin applying for state unemployment on Saturday


Hundreds of thousands of independent contractors and other people so far snagged in the system will be able to begin making successful claims starting Saturday.
The website ESD.WA.GOV will begin allowing people to make claims who have been denied because they worked less than 680 hours last year or work as an independent contractor, such as a salon stylist or ridehail service driver, the state's Employment Security Department commissioner Suzi LeVine confirmed in a news conference today.
On Saturday the phone lines will be closed as the online rush is attended to. The phone lines re-open Sunday.
It is anticipated several hundred thousand people will apply. There may be 1 million independent contractors in the state, LeVine said.
An additional $600 federal payment will be on top of the state's determined unemployment claim payment.
The additional $600 a week runs through July 25 thanks to the current federal benefits package, LeVine said previously.
Benefits will be expanded by 13 weeks to make it 39 weeks.
Applicants must give their wage earning information, but if they don't have it, they are eligible for the baseline $235 a week plus the $600 federal addition. Once the wage information is squared away, the department will pay retroactively for the difference.
People on social media have expressed frustration toward the system. LeVine said her office is hiring 1,000 people, many of whom are to help with customer service. She's also temporarily directed her entire department to only focus on unemployment issues, she said in the news conference.
In related news, the state can continue to pay out unemployment without going insolvent.
The state's special unemployment fund is "the strongest in the nation" with $4.7 million in the account, LeVine said.
LeVine noted "we are drawing heavily on our trust fund" but it isn't at risk. She noted the $600 additional payout on unemployment claims is being handled through the federal CARES Act.
The state will be looking to federal government to backfill the trust fund treasury in the far future, LeVine said.
In the bigger picture, budget-wise, "we can make it to January without changes to our (state) budget," Inslee said.

  

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