How the Fund Works

The WA Cares Fund is a public long-term care insurance program. All working Washingtonians contribute a small percentage of their income into the fund. Then when you need care, you can access your earned benefit of $36,500 (adjusted up to inflation) to pay for services.

The Path to Your Benefit

contributions icon
Automatically contribute

Automatically contribute 0.58% of your paycheck to the fund during your working years, starting in July 2023.


Learn more:

Calculate how much you might contribute

meet contribution icon
Meet contribution requirement

After contributing for 10 years (or less if you are nearing retirement or have a sudden need), you can access your benefit when you need care.


Learn more:

How long you need to contribute to the fund

Have a care need

You must also have a care need that requires assistance with activities of daily living in order to access your benefit.


Learn more:

What are the care need requirements

Apply for your benefit

After meeting the care need and contribution requirement, you can apply online to access your benefit starting in July 2026.


Learn more:

How to apply for your benefit

Receive services

Once approved, you can access your benefit of up to $36,500 (adjusted up to inflation) to pay for care. Those born before 1968 typically have lower contribution requirements and benefits.


Learn more:

How you can use your benefit to receive services

1  Automatically Contribute


The WA Cares Fund is a universal benefit you earn by contributing a small portion of each paycheck to the fund. This applies to both part-time and full-time workers.

How much do I contribute?


By contributing a small amount (0.58%) from your wages to the fund while working, you earn a long-term care benefit (up to $36,500) for when you need it. Everyone contributes at the same low rate regardless of salary.



When and how long do I contribute?


Workers began contributing to WA Cares Fund on July 1, 2023.


You contribute to the WA Cares Fund for as long as you're working in Washington state. As soon as you retire, you stop contributing. Similarly, if you become unemployed or leave the workforce to care for a child or other loved one, contributions stop. If you access your WA Cares benefit early and return to the workforce, contributions resume.



Who contributes?


All full-time, part-time, and temporary workers in Washington contribute to the WA Cares Fund, unless they have an approved exemption.


Federal employees do not contribute. Employees of tribal businesses only contribute if the tribe has chosen to opt in. 


Self-employed workers only earn benefits if they opt in. Learn more about the self-employed opt-in. See who does not pay into the fund below.

Contribution calculator


Enter your age and annual earnings to estimate how much you will contribute to WA Cares over your career. 



Annual contribution
( monthly contribution)

Learn more about the benefit amount you will earn, based on your qualifying years of contributions.

Who is exempt from contributions to the WA Cares Fund?


Some people automatically do not contribute to the fund, and other groups of people may apply for a voluntary exemption. Those with an approved exemption do not contribute to the fund and will not be able to access benefits. Learn more about exemptions.

These people automatically do not contribute:


  • Federal employees who work in Washington


  • Employees of tribal businesses in which the tribe has not opted in


  • People who are self-employed who have not opted in


  • Retired and non-working Washingtonians



These people may apply for a voluntary exemption:


  • Workers whose permanent home address is outside Washington


  • Temporary workers on a non-immigrant visa


  • Spouses or registered domestic partners of active-duty military members


  • Veterans with 70% or higher service-connected disabilities

2  Meet the Contribution Requirement


There are three different ways workers can meet the WA Cares Fund contribution requirement. The first two pathways offer any worker an opportunity to earn full benefits, and the third pathway offers near-retirees (people born before 1968) an opportunity to earn partial benefits.

Paths to full benefit


Lifetime Access

For all WA workers who have contributed 10+ years (applies to most people)

What it does: 

Provides lifetime access to the full benefit for workers who contribute to the fund over the long term.


Contributed for at least 10 years (without a gap of 5 or more consecutive years).

Access type:

Beneficiaries can access care costing up to $36,500 (adjusted up to inflation) at any point in their lifetime.


Fast track for WA workers who have contributed 3 of the last 6 years and have a sudden need for care

What it does: 

Allows workers with care needs during their career or soon after leaving the workforce to qualify for benefits even if they have not (yet) contributed 10 years.





Contributed for at least 3 of the past 6 years at the time you apply for benefits, and have a sudden care need such as an injury, illness, or disability.

Access type:

Beneficiaries can access care costing up to $36,500 (adjusted up to inflation) for as long as their care needs continue. If you stopped working and then return to work, your contributions will resume. If you continue working, you continue contributing.

Path to partial benefit


Those close to retirement may not be able to meet either of the two pathways above. Everyone born before 1968 can earn partial benefits for each year they work and contribute.


Partial benefits for WA workers born before 1968

What it does: 

Ensures people who are near retirement when WA Cares Fund launches can earn benefits.


Born before January 1, 1968 and contributed for at least one year.

Access type:

Lifetime access until partial benefit is used up.

3  Care Need Requirement


The second requirement to access your benefit is needing care. This is because WA Cares is a long-term care insurance program, not a savings account. WA Cares evaluates your care need by determining if you need assistance with three or more activities of daily living, such as bathing or managing medications.


Do you need help with any of these?

mobility icon


Moving from one place to another 


Transferring to a chair


Getting in or out of bed

personal hygiene icon

Personal hygiene



Going to the toilet

medication icon

Eating & medications



Taking medications

Cognitive Functioning

Cognitive functioning

Memory and recall


Decision making with everyday tasks

4  Apply for Your Benefit 


Once you’ve met both the contribution and care need requirement (see above), you will be able to apply to use your WA Cares benefit. Benefits become available July 1, 2026. Here’s how the application process will work:


1. Create a WA Cares Fund account

You will start by creating an account with a username and password. If you are helping a family member with their benefits, you will be able to sign up as an authorized representative.



2. Submit an application

You will answer a few questions about your care needs that will be reviewed by our team.



3. Discuss your care needs

You'll be able to schedule a time to talk with a representative about your care needs either in-person or over the phone.



4. Receive your determination

You will let us know how you want to receive messages (email, text, or mail) about your application. We will notify you about whether you qualify to start receiving your benefit. 


Learn more about Applying for benefits



woman filling out an online application

5  Receive Services


Once approved, you’ll have lifetime access to a total balance of up to $36,500 to pay for your long-term care. This benefit amount will grow over time as it is adjusted up to inflation.   

Choosing care services


Once you have been approved to start using your WA Cares benefit, you can choose when and how you use it. You can find an in-home care provider, use it for specific services, or make your home safer. To learn more about how the benefit can be used see Benefit coverage.


WA Cares handles payments


You will be able to use your benefit without having to pay out of pocket up front and you never need to submit a claim. All you’ll need to do is find a covered provider, approve the authorizations, and the rest of the process will be taken care of. You’ll be able to view your benefit balance when you are signed into your account, but WA Cares will pay providers directly on your behalf.

Up to
To cover your care needs

Did you know WA Cares Fund covers over 40 different care services? Explore the full options for Benefit coverage.

WA Cares is a very simple solution, where only a little bit comes out of your paycheck, and you get this benefit of $36,500 that you can use to do what you need.
Dani, Asotin