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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.

Mandatory payroll deductions begin Jan. 1, 2022

The WA Cares Fund will be supported by a 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

Applications for an exemption are submitted to the Employment Security Department (ESD). The exemption application is not yet available, but we will update this page when the application is posted on the ESD website.

An employee exempted from the WA Cares Fund premium by the ESD is permanently ineligible from receiving 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 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. The state is currently developing rules as to which alternative long-term care insurance arrangements will qualify for a program exemption. When considering purchasing an alternative long-term care arrangement, refer to the most current WA Cares Fund rules to see if it qualifies for the opt out.

If the ESD approves your premium exemption, you must notify your King County payroll representative to ensure no payroll deductions are taken. ESD does not notify King County of your premium exemption. It is your responsibility to notify King County.

For more information about exemptions, go to Private Long-term Care Insurance.

Benefit amount

Your WA Cares Fund benefit will be based on the number of “benefit units” you have earned. Each benefit unit will equal $100 in 2025, with units increasing in value as time goes on. Benefit units are earned through payroll premium deductions, and the maximum benefit units you can earn is 365. The initial maximum value will equal $36,500 in 2025, and will be adjusted annually for inflation. For more information, go to WA Cares Benefits.

Program eligibility

To be eligible for WA Cares Fund benefits, you must be at least 18 years old, a current Washington resident, and have worked and contributed to the fund for:

  • A total of 10 years without an interruption of five or more consecutive years; OR
  • Three of the last six years at the time you apply for the WA Cares Fund benefit; AND
  • At at least 500 hours per year during those years

For details about eligibility, go to Earning Your Benefits.

More information

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.

Benefits and retirement

Phone 206-684-1556
Fax: 206-296-7700

Phone hours:
9 a.m. – 4 p.m. weekdays

Fax: 206-296-7678