Legislative Victory! Unemployment Access for All Begins January 2024

Classified school employees have been blocked from unemployment benefits when we are laid off — until now. Thanks to OSEA members who have worked on this issue for decades, including many who testified and shared stories just this year, an OSEA-backed bill will give classified the same access to unemployment benefits as workers in any other sector.

Senate Bill (SB) 489 will go into effect in January 2024. Under SB 489, classified will need to apply and meet eligibility requirements. But we will no longer have to prove that we do not have “reasonable assurance” of a return to our jobs after a school break to be eligible for benefits.

“I’m literally jumping for joy! This is a huge win for OSEA and our members. We fought for years to win equal access to unemployment benefits, and it is finally here,” said OSEA President Sarah Wofford. “Many, many thanks to every member who advocated for us and to our legislative champions who pushed this bill through. Having access to this important financial safety net will be life changing for many of our members.”

OSEA has worked toward this moment for over a decade. “They said it would never happen and here it is,” said Lifetime Member Ed Edwards, former OSEA Government Relations Director. “I couldn’t be happier for OSEA members!”

OSEA was able to remove restrictions on unemployment benefits for some classifications in recent years. Custodial and maintenance workers gained equal access in 2019; food service, early childhood and early intervention workers followed in 2021. Now, all OSEA members, regardless of employer type or classification, will be able to apply for benefits and qualify using the same criteria as any other worker.

Until SB 489 goes into effect, school employees may still face restrictions when applying for unemployment insurance benefits. The only way to know if you are eligible is to apply, but OSEA’s guide to unemployment access for school employees can help you prepare the best application.