So you lost your job. What do you do next? As simple as it sounds, take a deep breath. Losing a job is painful; one minute you’re angry, the next you’re paralyzed by fear. Acknowledge your emotions. Allow yourself to grieve, even shed some tears.

When you’re ready, focus your energy on moving forward and do the following:

1. File for unemployment. Thanks to COVID-19 emergency rules, programs are now in place to allow more people than ever to access unemployment insurance benefits. (And for those of you adverse to government assistance, remember that unemployment insurance is simply a way to keep your head above water until you go back to work.)

You can apply for unemployment online or over the phone. In light of the unprecedented number of claims in Washington state, I strongly urge you to apply online.

Unemployment claims soared to a record 181,975 for the week ending March 28; that’s seven times the peak week during the 2008-09 recession. There are no in-person unemployment offices in Washington, and WorkSource can’t help you with your claim. Due to the continued high demand for assistance, the state now has an online webinar to walk you through the online application process. Sign up for one at https://esd.wa.gov/newsroom/introduction- to-unemployment-insurance- public-webinar.

To apply for unemployment, you will need your Social Security number and work history for the last 18 months, including all employer names, addresses and start/end dates. Using a laptop or desktop computer, visit www.esd.wa.gov and select “Unemployment.” Then, select “Apply now” to go to eServices to sign in or create your account. (You can set up an account using a phone or tablet, but it will be more difficult.)

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Coronavirus Cases

Source: Yakima Health District, Yakima Herald-Republic reporting

Even though the “waiting week” rule has been lifted, it may still take a few weeks to receive your unemployment insurance benefits. Fortunately, benefits are retroactive and paid from your date of eligibility, not from the time your application was submitted or approved.

2. Check out health insurance options. If you are laid off temporarily, more than likely you will still be covered by your employer, but ask your employer to make sure. If you are not placed on standby, your benefits usually end when you leave your job. This means you can keep your employer’s plan through a federal program called COBRA or purchase insurance through the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. Visit www.wahealthplanfinder.org.

3. Get your finances in order. Write down exactly how much money is coming each month and when, and how much is going out and when your bills are due. WorkSourceWA.com has a great budgeting tool that you can access for free, and it’s completely confidential and secure: https://worksourcewa.com/BudgetCalculator/BudgetCalculator.aspx. You might be surprised at how little you can live on.

4. Reach out to your creditors. After you’ve taken stock of how much money you have and how much you owe, contact your creditors. Be proactive; it’s better to contact them before there’s a problem.

5. Looking for a job. Your job search will most likely be different during this health crisis. You will not only apply online, you will probably interview online or by phone. Depending on your situation, you might need to start searching for new opportunities. Consider accepting a lower salary than you are accustomed to receiving, or do a totally different job to make ends meet. Let people know that you are open to opportunities on Facebook and LinkedIn, and make your job search your new job. Set up a schedule and look for work from X time to X time.

This is a challenging time for all of us and we’re in it together. Stay safe and check out the local WorkSource Facebook page for helpful tips and information at https://www.facebook.com/WorkSourceSouthCentralWA/.

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{span}• Michelle Smith is an employer engagement analyst for the South Central Workforce Development Council in Yakima.{/span}