As employers are busy preparing for deducting and remitting WA CARES premiums from their employees to Employment Security Department, many employees are inquiring about ways to qualify for benefits, especially those nearing retirement. The premium deductions will affect payrolls beginning July 1.
The WA CARES website states that there are two primary options for beneficiaries to obtain full benefits – Lifetime Access and Early Access.
Lifetime Access is for Washington employees who have paid into the program for at least ten years. They can receive up to $36,500, the full benefit amount. This route ensures permanent access to full benefits for long-term contributors to the fund. To be eligible, individuals must have made contributions for at least a decade without any break of five consecutive years. Beneficiaries under this category can use care services costing up to $36,500 (subject to inflation adjustment) at any point during their lifetime.
Early Access, on the other hand, is an expedited route for Washington employees who have contributed for three out of the previous six years and unexpectedly need care. It allows access to the full benefit amount of up to $36,500 for workers requiring care during their employment or shortly after exiting the workforce. These individuals are eligible for benefits even if they haven’t contributed for at least ten years. To be eligible, they must have made contributions for at least three of the last six years when they apply for benefits and demonstrate an immediate need for care due to conditions, including injury, illness, or disability. Beneficiaries can use care services costing up to $36,500 (subject to inflation adjustment) for the duration of their care needs.
Those nearing retirement may find it challenging to meet either the Lifetime Access or Early Access criteria. However, workers born before 1968 can accrue 10% of the benefits ($3,650) for each year of work and contribution. These workers can access the plan’s benefits for a lifetime until their partial benefit is exhausted.
For more information, see the WA Cares fund website.