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Help available for workers and companies affected by Eastern WA wildfires

Sometimes during a disaster, it's easy to forget that there is monetary-type and employment-relatead help for workers and businesses.
Sometimes during a disaster, it's easy to forget that there is monetary-type and employment-relatead help for workers and businesses.
Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

The Employment Security Department announced recently that the same type of disaster unemployment benefits that were available to those workers impacted during the Oso Landslide are also available for those not able to work due to the wildfires in Eastern Washington.

There is a special website with a link to apply online. Workers may also call 800-318-6022 to apply. In addition, employees that are affected by the wildfires that are currently claiming unemployment as well as those that are starting claims will not be held to the work-search requirements for up to four weeks.

For business owners affected by the wildfires, it’s likely top-of-mind that the quarterly state unemployment tax reports and payments due date is fast approaching (July 31). There isn’t just help for employees affected by the fires, but businesses as well as assistance can be requested in the form of a late payment penalty waiver. Companies wishing to request this help can call 855-TAX-WAGE, option two, which will put them in touch with their local tax account management center.

Another part of disasters that often occur are layoffs. However, some employers may not be aware that there is a possible option to this route called Shared Work. This is a good choice for those companies that are looking at a temporary drop in business as they can opt to lessen the work hours of the permanent employees, thus allowing those employees to collect partial unemployment benefits to replace some of their lost incomes. This helps businesses save some money on payroll while keeping good employees during the hardship.

For those companies that aren’t quite sure if this is the route to take, it’s important to note that this year, customers surveyed about the program not only agreed that it has helped companies stay in business, but approximately 97% of the companies that took advantage of it would recommend other companies that are struggling utilize it as well.

If that’s not enough of a reason to use this benefit, then consider the fact that the federal government is currently covering the cost of Shared-Work benefits until June of 2015 and companies won’t be charged to their experience-rating account, which affects their tax rate. More information on prerequisites to partake in this program can be found here.

Natural disasters happen without warning and can be devastating. It’s helpful to know there is help from our state’s Employment Security Department.

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