Unemployed in Washington? Here’s some useful resources.

Losing a job, or finding yourself unemployed can be a confusing, self-esteem-destroying experience. You may feel lost in a sea of uncertainty. You may be asking yourself “How will I pay my rent or mortgage?” “How will I afford groceries next week?” or “Where am I going to find a job?”

To my friends who lost their jobs yesterday, I am so sorry for the shocking change in direction you just experienced. The world of unemployment can be confusing, so I thought I would share some links to WA state resources that I discovered in the year since I accepted the buyout offer:You are not alone. There are many who find themselves in similar places and many others who have been there and can say, “I’ve been at rock bottom and I’ve found my way back up.”

I have two things to offer you:

  1. 5 things to remember on your very worst day by my friend Jayson Bradley.
  2. Information about some of the fantastic services Washington state offers to help you get back on your feet. I discovered these resources when I went back to school to become a nurse after I accepted a buyout offer from my employer.

#1 See if you qualify for a variety of services

Answer a few questions and this site will show what federal, state and local services you qualify. You can even apply for some of them on this site.

#2 Apply for state health insurance

Apple Health is offered for no monthly fees and no copays if you have no income. You can read about how ObamaCare made a huge difference in my ability to explore new opportunities. We don’t know what health care will look like as Trump takes office, but I doubt that the state of Washington’s commitment to making healthcare accessible will change.

#3 Get help to find a new job

In Wenatchee, we have Worksource and Skillsource. Together they can help you brush up on (or gain new) skills to make you more marketable, help you build/refine your resume, help you identify a job fit (both for your personality and the local job market) and connect you with employers. This site can help you find services that are close to you. If you apply for unemployment you’ll probably receive information, but it doesn’t hurt to contact them directly.

#4 Request re-evaluation if your income history prevents you from accessing a service

If you recently lost a good job, your income history may cause you to be rejected for some services. You can often fill out paperwork saying that you lost your job/are unemployed and they will re-evaluate.

If you’re thinking about going back to school or getting additional training

#5 See if you qualify for money for education/training

If you are interested pursuing a career in a new field that requires training, the state has funds that you may qualify for. This website can quickly identify whether you qualify for WorkFirst, Opportunity Grant, Worker Retraining, or Basic Food Employment and Training (BFET).

WorkForce retraining paid tuition for my prerequisites and training to become a CNA. I didn’t qualify for unemployment because I was in school during normal business hours, but I qualified for BFET and received an Opportunity Grant that covered my books and 1/2 my tuition for my 2 years of nursing school. This was VERY helpful because I have a previous Bachelor’s Degree which disqualified me from a lot of other grants and subsidized loans.

I discovered that I qualified for these programs by talking to the Workforce retraining staff my local community college (Wenatchee Valley College) and they were unbelievably helpful! Here’s the link for the team at Whatcom Community College. If you go to the website for your local community college and look for some of the keywords (opportunity grant, workfirst, workforce, BFET) you’ll probably be able to find contact information for local programs.

#6 SNAP / Food Stamps / BFET

If you go back to school after a layoff, you may also qualify for SNAP (previously called food stamps) through BFET. This provides money for food based on your family size and will help you find a job when you finish whatever training you are doing.

Because I qualified for SNAP I also qualified for a free (not-so-smart) phone. Through BFET I will also receive help finding a job after I graduate.

Closing thoughts

It was humbling to accept the government support after being so self-sufficient. Accepting this help has helped me pursue a life of purpose and I look forward to taking the skills that this help has afforded me and helping others in the future.

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