As we previously covered, premium collection by employers under the Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS) Trust Act was delayed until July 1, 2023, with benefits becoming available on July 1, 2026. The LTSS Trust Act established the Washington Cares Fund which provides a long-term care insurance benefit for eligible Washington employees, funded by mandatory worker contributions into a state trust fund. This is the first public long-term care insurance program in the nation. Under the program, eligible employees will be entitled to receive up to $36,500.00 in long-term care benefits over their lifetime (the benefit amount shall be increased annually, indexed to inflation). More information on the types of services and support which will be covered under the program is available on the state’s website. Eligible employees under the Act qualify in one of three ways:
- Full benefit, early access:Contributed for three (3) out of the last six (6) yearsWorked at least 500 hours per year
- Contributed for three (3) out of the last six (6) years
- Worked at least 500 hours per year
- Full benefit, lifetime access:Contributed for 10 years working at least 500 hours per year at any point in their life without a break of 5 or more years
- Contributed for 10 years working at least 500 hours per year at any point in their life without a break of 5 or more years
- Partial benefit, lifetime access:Individuals born after January 1, 1968 and who have contributed for at least 1 year will have access to a partial benefit, with each year during which the employee worked at least 500 hours earning 10% of the full benefit amount.
- Individuals born after January 1, 1968 and who have contributed for at least 1 year will have access to a partial benefit, with each year during which the employee worked at least 500 hours earning 10% of the full benefit amount.
Additional information regarding benefit eligibility can be found here.
The State of Washington recently released resources for employers to assist with compliance as premium collection commences in the coming months. These resources include an Employer Toolkit, program calendar, Paycheck Insert, FAQs, Fact Sheet, Poster, Infographic, Program Overview Videos, Care Stories, and recorded Webinars to name a few. A list of dates of upcoming live webinars has also been made available.
The legislation delaying the program’s timeline signed by Governor Jay Inslee on January 27, 2022, also featured other improvements to the Washington Cares Fund program including enabling near-retirees to qualify for partial benefits under the program, and expanding the classes of individuals which may opt-out of participation in the program including “certain veterans with disabilities, spouses and registered domestic partners of military service members, workers on temporary nonimmigrant visas, and employees who work in Washington but live in a different state.”
Commencing July 1, 2023, employers are required to withhold $0.58 for each $100.00 of employee earnings for contribution to the fund. Unlike Washington Paid Leave, premium contributions are not capped at the social security maximum wage base. Employees who meet the requirements for an exemption to opt-out of participation in the program under the new expanded classes above may apply for an exemption online by creating a Washington Cares Exemption account. If approved by the Washington Employment Security Department, employees are required to provide a copy of their exemption approval letter to all current and future employers. Exemptions are effective the first quarter after an employee’s application is approved. Once notified of an employee’s exemption, employers must keep a copy of their approval letter on file, and must cease deducting Washington Cares premiums. Employers who fail to terminate withholding as of the effective date of an employee’s exemption will be liable to the employee for any premiums which were collected in error or in contravention of the Act’s directives.