EMPLOYEES: WA Cares Fund contributions began this month

The WA Cares Fund is a new program that gives working Washingtonians access to long-term care coverage when they need it.

Contributions to the program began July 1, 2023.

WA Cares Fund

How Contributions Work  

With WA Cares, Washington workers will contribute 0.58% of each paycheck during their working years to be able to access a $36,500 lifetime benefit (adjusted annually for inflation) that can help pay for long-term care services when needed.

For example, a worker earning a typical wage of $50,091 will contribute $291 each year or about $24 a month. Over a 30-year career, this totals out around $8,700.

If you haven’t already, make sure to calculate your contribution so you can plan financially. You can find a calculator to estimate your contribution on the WA Cares website.

You will only contribute to WA Cares Fund while you’re working. Once you retire or if you leave the workforce temporarily, contributions stop.


How Benefits Work  

After contributing for 10 years (or less if you are nearing retirement or have a sudden need), you can access your benefit when you need care. For a year to count toward contribution requirements, you must work at least 500 hours, which is about 10 hours per week.

While WA Cares benefits can be used to pay for care in a residential setting like a nursing home, they can also cover services and supports to help you stay at home – things like training and paying a family caregiver, paying a professional in-home caregiver, home safety modifications, home-delivered meals, transportation, and assistive technology like medication reminder devices. Most people with long-term care needs can stay at home with the right support.

While the benefit won’t cover 100% of care for everyone, it could cover around 20 hours per week of home care for about a year. This is roughly the amount of in-home care the average Medicaid client receives right now.

About a third of people need care for a year or less, and for those people WA Cares may be able to cover all the care they need. For others, WA Cares provides families with immediate relief and time to plan for future care costs.

Benefits become available July 1, 2026.

Responsibility of exempt workers

If you applied to the Employment Security Department for an exemption from the program and were approved, make sure you know your responsibilities! You need to:

  • Provide your exemption letter to your employer as soon as possible to ensure premiums aren’t deducted from your paycheck. It is your responsibility to provide your letter to your employer and refunds will not be available if you don’t submit your letter in time.

  • Keep a copy of your exemption letter to provide to future employers. You can download a copy from the Secure Access Washington account you used to apply for the exemption.

  • Notify both the Employment Security Department (ESD) and your employer within 90 days if you no longer qualify for your conditional exemption (those for workers who live out of state, are a temporary worker with a non-immigrant visa, or are a spouse/registered domestic partner of an active-duty service member of the U.S. armed forces), notify both ESD and your employer within 90 days if you no longer qualify.

If you haven’t yet submitted your exemption application but meet the requirements for one of the exemption types available on an ongoing basis, you can still apply – but premiums will be deducted from your paycheck until your approved exemption goes into effect.

Exemptions become effective the quarter following approval. Refunds for previous contributions will not be available.  

Get your questions answered

You can find webinar recordings and dates for upcoming webinars with more details on the program on the WA Cares website.

You can also find the program’s contact information and learn more about:

• Contributions

• Benefits

• Exemptions

To stay up to date on WA Cares news and events, subscribe to the program’s mailing list.