OLYMPIA — Washington will spend $54 million to provide one-time payments to nearly 100,000 gig and self-employed workers cut off from unemployment benefits because of the impasse over the federal COVID-19 relief and spending bill, Gov. Jay Inslee said Sunday.
Later this week, 94,555 people in Washington who were enrolled federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program as of Nov. 21 will get payments of $550, which is roughly the equivalent of two weeks’ worth of benefits, he said.
The PUA program, set up to provide unemployment benefits to workers who normally do not qualify for them, expired at midnight Saturday. The program would be extended until March 14, 2021, if President Donald Trump signs the relief bill into law.
However, even if Trump signs the bill in the coming days, those who have been getting PUA payments will lose at least one week of benefits, Inslee said, calling that “unacceptable.”
“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,” he said.
The bill also includes relief payments to families and money for vaccine distribution, businesses and strained public transit systems.