Website Background


As of January 2022, WA Cares Fund has a new timeline and improved coverage. Changes include:

  • Near-retirees earn partial benefits for each year they work
  • Certain workers who would be unlikely to qualify or use their benefits can request an exemption. These are workers who live out of state, military spouses, workers on non-immigrant visas and veterans with a service connected disability rating of 70% or more.

Learn more about changes to the program, key dates and what employers need to know.

Live Webinars

Join a live webinar to learn more about the WA Cares Fund and get your questions answered. Pre-registration is not required.  

You may join any of the webinars by clicking the links below and entering the following meeting information: 

  • Meeting ID:  815 0646 1779 
  • Passcode:  547656 

Automatic live captions will be enabled for all webinars. Attendees can ask questions live through chat or contact us after the presentation.  

If you can’t attend live, you can watch recordings of past webinars and download the presentation slides (PDF) shown during the webinars.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Benefits offered and care need

Is there a daily limit to WA Cares Fund benefits?
WA Cares Fund is a flexible benefit you can use to meet your care needs up to $36,500 with no daily limit.

What services will WA Cares Fund provide?
WA Cares Fund will pay for care where you need it, whether it’s in-home or in a facility.  You can hire a home care aide and pay a qualified family member (including a spouse) to provide care.  You can use funds flexibly to make home modifications so you can get around better, purchase a home safety evaluation so you can prevent avoidable falls, and have meals delivered to your door.  You can purchase equipment, assistive devices, medication reminders, and transportation to the doctor.  If you are being supported by an unpaid family caregiver, you can hire a home care aide to give them a break or get your family members the training they need to feel supported.  These are just some of the services WA Cares Fund will offer.  Others include dementia supports, memory care, care transitions, personal emergency response systems, and more. 

How long will $36,500 typically last?
Twenty hours of home care per week for one year costs around $32,000 in Washington State.  The typical DSHS long-term care client uses 96 hours per month.  WA Cares Fund can provide complete financial relief for families who are paying out of pocket for in-home long-term care for a full year and substantial relief for individuals who receive care in a residential setting.  According to AARP, 48% of people who need long-term care only need it for one year or less.

How will the department decide if I have a need for long-term care?
DSHS will ask you questions about your activities of daily living and the support you need.  If you need assistance with at least three activities of daily living, you are eligible for benefits.  This may be based on self-report and could be verified by a health professional.  The types of activities DSHS will ask you about are eating, bathing, walking, or moving around in a wheelchair, dressing, getting in and out of a chair and your ability to move around once you are in bed, using the bathroom, managing your medications, personal hygiene, and body care.  DSHS will also ask about cognition and any memory/cognitive impairments that impact your daily life.  Once you are determined eligible, you have access to the lifetime $36,500 benefit to use flexibly to address your needs.

Employer information

What long-term care insurance policies qualify for an exemption?
The Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) has defined criteria that private policies must meet to qualify.

Our company supplies long-term care insurance for our employees. Can we apply for an exemption on behalf of our employees?
No. Employees get to choose if they want an exemption from WA Cares coverage, or if they want to use WA Cares to supplement the benefits you’re already offering. If they choose to apply for an exemption, they have to do it themselves.

Can I cover the cost of my employees’ premiums?
Yes. You have the option to pay WA Cares premiums on your employees’ behalf.

Do we have to collect premiums for employees who don’t live in Washington?
Businesses will need to collect WA Cares premiums for employees whose work is localized in Washington. Generally, you’ll collect premiums for WA Cares from the same employees you pay premiums on for Paid Family and Medical Leave.

Do WA Cares contributions top out at the Social Security cap?
No. Unlike Paid Family and Medical Leave, premium contributions do not top out at the taxable maximum for Social Security.

How do I know if my employees have approved exemptions?
It is the employee’s responsibility to notify and give you a copy of their approval letter from ESD, which contains the date their exemption goes into effect. Once you are provided the letter and the effective date has passed, you must stop withholding premiums. Employers must return incorrectly withheld premiums to the employee.

On Jan. 27, Gov. Inslee signed a bill that delays parts of WA Cares implementation by 18 months. Most immediately, premium collection for WA Cares won’t begin until July 2023. See further guidance.


What long-term care insurance policies qualify for an exemption?
The Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) has defined criteria that private policies must meet to qualify.

Will the long-term care insurance offered by my employer qualify me for an exemption?
Maybe. It has to meet criteria, defined by the Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC), for private policies to qualify. You can apply for an exemption from Oct. 1, 2021 through Dec. 31, 2022. The Employment Security Department (ESD) may audit your application and request more information from you.

NOTE: You only pay WA Cares Fund premiums while you’re working—not after retirement. Private long-term care insurance usually requires continuous payments. If you don’t keep up, your policy could lapse and leave you without coverage. Individuals with approved exemptions will never be eligible for WA Care benefits.

When do I need a qualifying long-term care insurance policy to be eligible for an exemption?
You must have purchased a qualifying long-term care insurance policy before November 1, 2021. Here are some things you may want to consider.

I have a long-term care rider on my life insurance policy. Does this qualify me for an exemption?
Maybe. Check the Office of the Insurance Commissioner’s website to learn more about what qualifies as private long-term care insurance in Washington state.

If I get approved for an exemption, will I need to reapply annually?
No. Once approved, you don’t need to reapply. But remember, an exemption from WA Cares is a lifetime exemption. You’ll be permanently excluded from coverage and benefits—even if you’re unable to afford to maintain your private insurance policy in the future. Before applying for an exemption, be sure your private insurance plan will meet your long-term care needs for life.

When can I apply for an exemption?
Exemption applications became available on October 1, 2021. The last day to apply for an exemption is December 31, 2022.

If I miss the deadline to apply, can I still be exempt from the program?
No. The Employment Security Department (ESD) can only accept applications for exemption from October 1, 2021 through December 31, 2022.

If I’m exempt, how do I let my employer know so they don’t withdraw premiums from my pay?
After your application is approved, the Employment Security Department (ESD) will send you an approval letter. You must supply a copy of your approval letter to all current and future employers. Once you provide your approval letter to your employers and the effective date of your exemption has passed, your employers must stop withholding premiums. If your employers continue to withhold premiums, they must return them to you. If, however, you fail to present your approval letter to your employers, they have no responsibility to return premiums. Learn more

Can I opt back into WA Cares if I lose my private long-term care coverage?
No. Exemptions are permanent. Learn more

When will I find out if my application has been approved?
We’re reviewing applications in the order we received them and will send you a confirmation email after we process your application. Please note, our customer care specialists can’t quote timelines for individual applications.

On Jan. 27, Gov. Inslee signed a bill that delays parts of WA Cares implementation by 18 months and makes changes to exemptions. See below for further info. See what’s new.

Other questions

Is there cash value if you never use it?
WA Cares Fund is a universal long-term care program that works like Social Security, where all workers participate and earn coverage over the course of their careers.  There is no option to cash out the contributions you’ve made if you do not use benefits.

I’m a federal employee. Can I participate in WA Cares?
WA Cares is not available to federal government employees, including active duty military employees. If, however, you work for a military department that is considered a Washington state employer, you will be included in WA Cares Fund.

Who is the underwriter for WA Cares Fund?
WA Cares Fund is a universal long-term care program that works like Social Security, where all workers participate and earn coverage over the course of their careers.  This program does not have underwriting and is fully funded by pooling worker’s wages and investing them with the State of Washington for WA Cares Fund beneficiaries to use when they need long-term care.

What is the financial status of the WA Cares Trust Fund?
WA Cares Fund has not yet begun collecting premiums or paying benefits. The Office of the State Actuary has published initial actuarial projections of the long-term financial status of WA Cares Fund as well as frequently asked questions on this issue.

Are Statutory W-2 Employees subject to the payroll tax being implemented in January of next year?
Definitions for who contributes to the WA Cares Fund (Long-Term Services and Supports or LTSS) in RCW 50B.04.010 refer back to the Paid Family and Medical Leave Program (PFML) definitions in RCW 50A.05.010. This includes the definition of “Employment” in (8). If premiums are not assessed for the PFML program, they will not be assessed for WA Cares Fund.

For other questions about the program, you can call 844-CARE4WA toll-free or contact us by email.