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Unemployment Benefits for Self-Employed | Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

Updated: Aug 11, 2020

Under the CARES act, self-employed workers – freelancers, independent contractors, gig worker, and other self-employed individuals – who have been harmed financially by COVID-19 are now eligible for unemployment benefits. 


In order to apply, you’ll first need to apply for regular unemployment benefits and be denied. This is required by law and is the only way that you can apply for expanded pandemic unemployment benefits. You must also be unemployed due to COVID-19 and have worked some hours in your base year. (Base year: first four of the last five completed calendar quarters before the week you apply.)

What You Need to Apply

  1. Social security number, birth date, and other identifying information

  2. Bank account and routing number if you want to sign up for direct deposit

  3. Proof of income earned in your base year such as:

  • Schedule C, K, SE, or F

  • DOR quarterly reports

  • 2019 tax return

How to Apply

The ESD recommends applying online through their website by creating a SecureAccess Washington (SAW) account. While it is possible to apply by phone, call volumes are high right now and may result in long wait times.

Applying for Regular Unemployment

  1. Create a SAW account

  2. When filling out work history:

  • If were solely self-employed for the past 18 months, list no employers

  • If you worked as an employee within the past 18 months, provide work history

  1. Wait to be denied

Applying for Expanded Unemployment

  1. Once you get denied, you will get an alert on your SAW account notifying you that you can apply for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

  2. Click on the link provided to apply for expanded unemployment

  3. Upload proof of income documents

  4. After applying, start filing weekly claims right away to get paid faster


If approved, you will get an amount based on your regular income. You will be eligible to receive retroactive payments back to your eligibility date.  For those that receive at least $1 per week, an additional $600/week will be available from April 4 to July 25 due to the CARES Act. 

ESD Resources


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