Legislature mulls bill to give unemployment recipients more flexibility

Jan 24, 2023, 12:39 PM | Updated: 12:48 pm
unemployment hiring sign...
(Photo by Leonardo Munoz/VIEWpress)
(Photo by Leonardo Munoz/VIEWpress)

As tech workers are laid off around the region, the legislature is debating a bill that would make it a little easier for people to keep their unemployment.

Traditionally, to get unemployment in Washington, you need to show you are applying for three jobs every week or doing three job search activities at your local unemployment office.

If passed, Senate Bill 5331 would expand the definition of job search activities to allow a variety of virtual actions that are not a direct application for a job. Examples could include writing a resume or cover letter, watching a video on how to do a job interview, attending a job-related webinar, drafting an elevator pitch, and uploading a profile to a job search website.

Unemployment claimants in Washington must start job search activities

The state’s unemployment office had allowed this more flexible definition of job search activities since the job search requirement returned during the pandemic, but the new proposal would make it a permanent change.

The idea behind the proposal is that this would encourage people to meaningfully work toward a job, instead of rushing to fill out applications for jobs they don’t want just to meet the weekly mandate.

“One of the things that we continue to hear is a problem is if people are going through the motions of applying for jobs that they don’t actually mean to take, it’s not serving anybody well,” said Caitlyn Jekel, government relations director with the Employment Security Department, during testimony. “If we’re in a period of high unemployment, and folks are going, ‘The only option I have to remain compliant with unemployment insurance is to crank out job applications,’ employers aren’t necessarily getting the job applicant that they want.”

Legislators who sponsored the bill said that it is important to give job-seekers options to keep up with the times.

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“Keep in mind, we’ve come through a rather remarkable period with COVID, which has changed and altered the way we do a job search,” said Sen. Steve Conway (D-Tacoma). “This is natural to allow greater flexibility in the job search.”

For a full list of job search activities that will be accepted for unemployment, visit ESD’s website.

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Legislature mulls bill to give unemployment recipients more flexibility