According to numbers released last week, 133,464 people in Washington State filed unemployment claims seeking financial relief after losing jobs in the midst of measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
In Idaho, 13,341 new unemployment claims were filed the week that ended March 21, and state officials anticipate sharing county-by-county data this week.
If you have suffered a job loss or want to be prepared should that happen, here are five things you can do to best respond.
Keep your cool if your job is cut
This is obvious, but stay calm. while you are informed about the change in your employment status. Throwing a tantrum or airing petty grievances could make your boss reluctant to give you a good reference that could help you land a new job. Thank your supervisor for the opportunity you had to work as long as you did. Ask if the company has a need for you in another role, even if it’s more limited; could offer you a severance package; or could continue health insurance for a certain length of time.
Apply for unemployment
Unemployment benefits are for times like this when people lose their jobs through no fault of their own. Apply as soon as possible after you lose your job. If you qualify, the benefits will come through the state where your job was. If you’re an Idahoan and work in Washington, seek benefits in Washington, said Nick Demerice, a spokesman for the Washington State Employment Security Department. If you’re a Washingtonian and worked in Idaho, apply in Idaho.
Both states are handling claims online because their offices are closed to walk-in traffic. Idaho’s site is labor.idaho.gov/dnn, and Washington’s site is www.esd.wa.gov/. Idaho and Washington have both waived one-week waiting periods for benefits.
Recipients of unemployment in Washington can expect to get about half their regular wages, but there’s a cap for higher wage earners, Demerice said. Idaho benefits typically range from $72 to $448 per week, said Leah Reeder, Idaho Department of Labor, unemployment insurance technical services specialist.
Agency employees are available by telephone to answer questions, but expect long waits. Last week Idaho beefed up its crew of staff members answering telephones after some callers were automatically disconnected after 60-minute waits, Reeder said. In Idaho, the busiest times are on Mondays and between 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Pacific Time.
Look for work
A number of places are still hiring, including businesses that have more demand for their products or services because of the coronavirus. Among them are Home Depot, St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, Albertsons, Walmart, WinCo Foods, toilet paper manufacturer Clearwater Paper and Royal Plaza Health and Rehabilitation, an assisted living facility and nursing home with independent senior living. Keep in mind, the goal isn’t necessarily to find your dream job, just a way to cover your expenses until the economy rebounds.
Make the job search part of a daily routine that includes chores, exercise, and perhaps learning a new skill. The Khan Academy has free online courses in subjects such as math, economics and art history. Ideally, pick something related to your profession, but if that isn’t an option choose something that interests you. You will present better in an interview if you have spent at least some of your free time studying, not just binging on Netflix and chips.
Talk to your creditors
Make a list of your monthly bills such as your mortgage or rent, car loan, credit cards, utilities and cellphone service. Contact each one and explain your situation to see if they can offer relief.A number of major organizations have already indicated they have plans to help.
Credit unions may give members loan modifications to make payments more affordable, options to skip mortgage payments for as long as 90 days and emergency low-interest to zero-interest loans, according to professional organizations representing credit unions in the Northwest.
The Idaho Apartment Association is encouraging property owners to defer April rent for those who have lost their jobs and avoid filing evictions with renters who are willing to sign agreements about how they will cover their missed rent in the future.
Create a budget
Write down everything you spend. Compare that with what you have in reserves and any remaining income, then make a budget that covers necessities. Look carefully at expenses for food, cellphones, clothing and recreation to see if you can still afford them or if they can be reduced. Remember this is a short-term plan to help you get by until you land a job, not a new forever.