Frequently asked questions for businesses

What can I do about public utilities being shut off to my home or business?

On March 18, the governor called on all public utilities in Washington to suspend disconnection tariffs for nonpayment during this emergency. He also ordered them to waive late fees for customers who are out of work or offer customers payment plans and expand bill-assistance programs for customers who are economically affected by this emergency. Learn more on the governor’s Medium account.

What is considered a “small business” that would qualify for small-business assistance as a result of COVID-19? 

The Small Business Administration has guidance to help you understand your business size. Small businesses might be defined differently depending on the resource you need. But the best place to start is the SBA size standards webpage. Find more information.

Are there any changes to the dates that property taxes are due?

Check with your county assessor’s office about potential property tax deadline changes for your county. You can find COVID-19 information and links to county governments on the Washington Association of County Officials website.

What assistance is available for businesses during this crisis? 

Find out more information about available resources. This information is changing rapidly, so check back frequently, as we will add new resources regularly.

Where can I get tested for COVID-19? 

Call or email your healthcare provider for information about local testing options. If you do not have a local healthcare provider, please check with your county health department.

I have a healthcare appointment. Can my healthcare provider still see me? 

Before going to an appointment, please contact your healthcare provider by telephone or online to confirm they are still seeing patients. Ask what steps you may need to take before arriving to help protect yourself and others. Some service providers and insurance companies are providing some healthcare consultations virtually. Check with your healthcare provider or insurance company for more information.

I cannot pay my taxes. What help is available?

Assistance depends on the taxing authority. If the taxes are owed to a county or city, please check with your city or county government for the tax relief options that are available. See below for state and federal tax information.

Washington State Department of Revenue

The Department of Revenue is taking measures to offer temporary tax relief to businesses, including tax filing extensions, deferrals and waiving some tax penalties. Learn more at the Department of Revenue’s website.

Internal Revenue Service (Federal)

The IRS has extended this year’s tax filing deadline until July 15 and has established a special section to help taxpayers, businesses and others affected by the coronavirus. The IRS coronavirus page will be updated when new information is available.

What if I am late in filing tax reports, paying taxes, or responding timely to requests for information as a result of COVID-19? 

Financial penalties may be waived if the delays are a result of COVID-19 impacts.

I am closing my business because of COVID-19. Am I required to cash out employees’ vacation time when my business closes?

Final paychecks must be paid on or before the next regularly scheduled payday. Employers cannot withhold a final paycheck if the employee does not turn in keys, uniforms, tools, equipment, etc. There are specific rules for deductions taken from a final paycheck.

Severance, personal holidays and vacation time are voluntary benefits. Employers can choose to pay out these benefits on a final paycheck. If your employees believe they are owed any of these agreed-upon benefits, they can contact an attorney or file in small claims court.

Employers must follow separate requirements for paid sick leave balances.
We encourage you to learn about resources available to help keep your business open.

I own a membership-based business (such as a gym) that has shut down. Do I refund membership dues because of the mandatory shutdown?

That will depend on your membership contract, so we can’t provide advice on that specific question. Get more information on resources for small businesses.

Is it acceptable to run payroll on a quarterly basis?

Employers must pay employees at least once per month on a regular, scheduled payday. You can learn more on the Department of Labor & Industries website.

I'm self-employed and my business has closed. What resources are available to me?

The resources available to you depend on several factors. We encourage you to contact the Employment Security Department to speak with a specialist about your specific situation: 855-829-9243.

The Employer Unemployment Insurance Q&A is updated frequently. Check back for the most recent information.

What programs are offered to assist businesses to keep workers during COVID-19?

The Employment Security Department has expanded programs to help support businesses and workers whose financial stability is affected by COVID-19. 

Shared Work: This program allows employers to reduce the hours of permanent and hourly-paid employees by as much as 50 percent. Employees can collect partial unemployment benefits to replace a portion of their lost wages. While on the SharedWork program, employees are not required to make an active search for work. You must apply to participate in the program. Find the application and instructions

Partial employment (for reduction in hours): If you are temporarily reducing hours of work for your full-time employees, they may be able to receive unemployment benefits without needing to look for work. 

Standby: In certain circumstances, your employees may be eligible for standby. Standby means they do not have to look for other work but need to be available for any work you offer that they can do if quarantined or isolated. Generally, standby is only allowed for up to eight weeks during a claim year. We may grant an extension of standby for more than eight weeks if you make your request in writing and can show extraordinary circumstances. Under the new emergency rules, temporary shutdowns related to COVID-19 infection at the place of business that cause you to close or severely reduce operations are considered extraordinary circumstances.

If I need to temporarily shut down my business due to a possible COVID-19 contamination or quarantine at the worksite, can I receive a relief of benefit charges?

If you are a taxable employer, you may request a relief of benefit charges due to a business closure which is directly related to possible contamination at the business site. This will be determined on a case-by-case basis. 

What if I need to temporarily lay off employees due to a slowdown of business which is not directly linked to COVID-19?

You may request to place an employee on standby and your employee can collect unemployment benefits without having to look for other work. While on standby, workers must accept any work you offer that they can do without breaking isolation or quarantine. Relief of benefit charges cannot be granted in this situation.

How do I designate my employee to be on standby to make sure they receive the maximum benefit?

Our technology is catching up to our emergency rulemaking. Employers won’t be able to designate the maximum amount of standby time allowed by emergency rules in eServices until we apply an update to the system. We are working on that, and when complete, an employee’s existing application for standby will be automatically extended. No action is needed by employers at this time.

What will happen to my employees if I go out of business due to impacts from COVID-19?

If you lay off employees due to a permanent closure, they can apply for unemployment benefits. Eligibility will be determined based upon criteria in place prior to COVID-19, and on a case-by-case basis. Layoff assistance may be available for businesses facing major layoffs. 

Where can I find additional resources for businesses?

More questions?

Try using the search box at the top of each webpage to find information. The Centers for Disease Control also has a coronavirus FAQ page.