Mandatory payroll tax for Washington long-term care program

Coming in 2022

A new mandatory Washington state wage tax goes into effect in January 2022 to fund a statewide long-term care insurance benefit called the WA Cares Fund. This program is the first of its kind in the United States and beginning January 2025 will cover some of the costs of long-term care services for eligible participants.

About the new payroll tax

Beginning Jan. 1, 2022, all employees will pay $0.58 per $100 of earnings through a payroll deduction. Similar to the Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program, employers must collect the premiums and remit the money to the Employment Security Department. The only exemption is for employees who can demonstrate they have other long-term care insurance.

Limited opportunity to opt out

If you purchase your own long-term care insurance prior to Nov. 1, 2021, you can apply to the Employment Security Department for a permanent exemption to the WA Cares Fund and associated tax.

  • You must apply for the exemption between Oct. 1, 2021, and Dec. 31, 2022.
  • If you are considering purchasing long-term care insurance, you can find a list of insurance companies, and other resources, on the state’s Long-term care insurance web page.
  • 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.

More about the benefit

Beginning January 2025, eligible participants can access the WA Cares Fund benefit of up to $100 per day, with a lifetime benefit of $36,500, adjusted annually for inflation. Benefits can be used for a range of services and supports, including professional care at home or a licensed facility, equipment, home-delivered meals, training and support for family members who provide care, and transportation. For more information, go to WA Cares Benefits. Note: The WA Cares Fund is not a leave program and is not the same as long-term disability insurance.

Eligibility

The Employment Security Department determines eligibility and contribution requirements. For details, go to Earning Your Benefits. To qualify, you must be a current Washington resident and 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

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.

For more information about the program, go to the WA Cares Fund website or email wacaresfund@dshs.wa.gov. In addition, see the WA Cares Fund webpage for King County employees and FAQ.