The Washington Cares Fund law (also referred to as the Long-Term Care benefit law) was enacted by the 2019 Legislature. The purpose of the law is to set up a system for employees to save and buy into long-term care services. Seven out of 10 people will need long-term care in their elder years, and without a funding source this can cause significant hardship on the individual and their family.
In fall 2021, ending on November 1, 2021, employees had the opportunity to opt out of the system by buying private long-term care insurance and applying to the Washington Employment Security Department (ESD) for exemption. Beginning January 1, 2022 employers must collect the premiums that fund the system from the paychecks of any employee who was not recognized as being exempt by the ESD.
On December 17, 2021, Governor Inslee and legislative leaders released a statement committing to make changes to the Washington Cares Fund law in the 2022 Legislative Session. Many state of Washington employees and employers provided feedback on the legislation regarding the small benefit of the program, and the inequity for employees nearing retirement and for employees who work in Washington now, but will likely never benefit from the program.
Until the existing state law is amended however, Olympia School District must follow the law and proceed with collecting the WA Cares Fund premiums in January 2022. As part of the Governor’s December 17 announcement, he directed the ESD to not collect any premiums from employers until the close of the quarter in order to give the Legislature time to work on these projected modifications. This decision by the Governor and ESD does not change the underlying law that requires employers to collect the premiums from employees.
In the event the law is amended, Olympia School District will comply with the changes and follow the new timelines identified. If premiums are required to be reversed, the district will quickly do so. Any premiums that have been collected that are not consistent with the new amended law, will be returned to employees.
To review the WA Cares Fund benefit and provisions and see messages from Governor Inslee regarding future amendments to the law, visit wacaresfund.wa.gov.
If you have questions about this premium and/or your exemption status, please contact the ESD https://wacaresfund.wa.gov/contact-us/ .
Note: If you applied for and received an exemption from tax from ESD, and submitted your notice to OSD Payroll Services in December or earlier, you should not see the tax/premium reflected on your pay stub. Employees have until December 31, 2022 to apply for an exemption, but exemptions will only be granted for policies purchased by November 1, 2021.