Legislature passes unemployment tax relief for employers, along with a benefit hike for unemployed workers.

The state Legislature Friday passed a sweeping unemployment insurance bill with something for everyone. Seattle Times business reporter Paul Roberts sums it up in his lead:

Washington state lawmakers approved legislation that would save employers nearly $1 billion in unemployment taxes this year, raise the minimum weekly jobless benefit, and provide benefits to some workers who quit for health reasons.

Since unemployment rates spiked last spring, dramatically reducing the state’s UI trust fund, employers had expressed growing concerns that they’d face a recovery-killing UI  tax increase in 2021. Lawmakers and the governor had agreed early on that a relief measure was justified. The bipartisan support for the bill  which passed in the Senate 42-7 and in the House 89-8 shows the breadth of agreement.

Roberts describes the legislation:

The legislation, a top priority for the new session, will blunt what would have been a $1.7 billion increase in employers’ unemployment taxes through 2025 that the state would have needed to cover the unexpected costs of unemployment claims during the pandemic.

It reduces by $920 million the taxes employers would have paid in 2021, and also removes from calculations of future tax rates the $1.2 billion in benefits paid to workers during last spring’s stay-home period.

The measure raises the minimum weekly unemployment benefit payment for low-wage workers who lose their jobs, from $201 to about $270.

More coverage in the Spokesman-Review and Associated Press.