WA Cares Fund
State program to help with long-term care costs
The WA Cares Fund is a mandatory long-term care insurance benefit established by Washington state law in 2019. Beginning January 2025, eligible participants can use program benefits to purchase long-term care services, which may include professional care, equipment, home safety evaluations, and compensation for family members who provide care.
Steps for opting out
If you have private long-term care insurance in place by Nov. 1, 2021, and you wish to opt-out of the state program, you can apply to the Employment Security Department (ESD) for a permanent exemption from the program between Oct. 1, 2021, and Dec. 31, 2022, using the steps below:
- Purchase qualifying private long-term care insurance before Nov. 1, 2021.
- Apply for an exemption on the WA Cares Fund website.
- Once approved by ESD, provide a copy of your approval letter to your King County agency human resources (HR) professional. ESD will not notify employers.
- Agency HR will work to get mandatory deduction turned off. You are not entitled to a refund of premiums taken before you notified King County.
- Your exemption will take effect on the first day of the following quarter. Until then, the deduction will continue to be taken out of your paycheck.
Live education sessions and FAQ available
The state is offering live webinar sessions to help you learn more about the WA Cares Fund and get your questions answered. In addition, they have posted Frequently Asked Questions. Go to Learn More on the WA Cares website.
Payroll deductions begin Jan. 1, 2022
The WA Cares Fund will be supported by a mandatory premium paid by employees only. The premium has been set by state law at $0.58 per $100 of gross wages. For example, if an employee earns $50,000 annually, the total annual premium is $290 or $11.15 per paycheck ($50,000 divided by 100 = 500; 500 multiplied by $0.58 = $290/year). Employee payroll deductions begin Jan. 1, 2022, which means you will see the deduction on your first paycheck in 2022.
Paid time off, including vacation, sick time, and associated cash outs, are included in wages.
Limited premium exemption opportunity
State law allows you to apply for an individual exemption to the program between Oct. 1, 2021, and Dec. 31, 2022. The exemption is only available if:
- You purchase long-term care insurance by Nov. 1, 2021; and
- You are 18 years of age or older on the date of your exemption application
If you are considering purchasing long-term care insurance, you can find a list of insurance companies approved to sell in Washington state, and other resources, on the state’s Long-term care insurance website. Learn more about what qualifies as a long-term care policy under state law.
If you are approved for a program exemption
An employee exempted from the WA Cares Fund premium by the ESD is permanently ineligible to receive benefits under the program and cannot rejoin the program at a later date. ESD will approve or deny a premium exemption based on criteria established by state law.
If the ESD approves your premium exemption:
- You will receive an exemption approval letter from ESD.
- Provide a copy of your approval letter to your King County agency Human Resources professional. ESD does not notify King County of your premium exemption. It is your responsibility to notify King County.
- Your exemption will go into effect on the first day of the following quarter.
- Until your exemption goes into effect, payroll deductions will be taken. No refunds are available for any premiums already paid.
See the Exemptions FAQ for additional information.
Beginning January 2025, each person who is eligible to receive the benefit can access services and supports costing up to $36,500. The nominal value of this benefit will change over time. For more information, go to WA Cares Benefits.
To qualify for benefits from the WA Cares Fund, you must have worked and contributed to the fund for:
- At least 10 years at any point in your life without a break of five or more years within those 10 years; OR
- Three of the last six years at the time you apply for the benefit; AND
- At least 500 hours per year during those years
For details about eligibility, go to Earning Your Benefits.
The WA Cares Fund is administered by the Employment Security Department and the Department of Social and Health Services. King County does not administer any portion of the program beyond collecting premiums via payroll deduction and reporting employee pay and hours.
More information about the WA Cares Fund is available on the ESD WA Cares Fund website and on the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) Long-Term Services and Supports website. In addition, see the FAQ for King County employees.