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May 20, 2010

Let's Talk Training Benefits

***For an update on the Training Benefits application, check out our more recent post***

Today's post is an informal discussion of the Training Benefits program.  If you're eligible to collect (or presently collecting) Unemployment and looking to attend a community or technical college so as to update a skill set or to retrain for a new occupation, you'll want to familiarize yourself with the Training Benefits program right away. 

Let's start with the technical definition.  The Training Benefits program was created by the Washington State Legislature in 2000.  It is administered by the Employment Security Deparment and it provides extended Unemployment benefits to dislocated workers whose occupations are in decline and are therefore in need of training to find a new job. 

In simpler terms, training benefits equals additional weeks of Unemployment you can collect while going to school to retrain for that new job.  Up to 26 weeks, to be exact.  That's up to half a year of extra Unemployment. 

If a given student applies and is approved for the Training Benefits program, the training benefits - or extra weeks of Unemployment - would kick in after his/her regular Unemployment benefits and Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) have run out.  

To apply for the Training Benefits program, all's you need to do is fill out and submit a Training Benefits application.  It's only about 6 pages long but it will require some work.  Among other things, you'll have to demonstrate the following:
  • First, that you are coming from a decline occupation.  To determine if your occupation is in decline, the application prompts you to visit www.wilma.org/wdclists.  It's a user-friendly website that allows you to look up labor market info on any given occupation in your county of residence.  See page 3 of the application. 
  • Second, that the degree or certificate you want to pursue is on the Eligibility Training Provider List.  To determine this, the application prompts you to visit www.careerbridge.wa.gov/.  Also, you'll need to map out the specifics of your training program - what college you plan to attend, when you expect to begin the training program, and when you expect to complete the training program as a whole. See page 4 of the application.
  • Third and final, that the training will lead to a job, or to a variety of jobs, which are in demand.  Again, the application directs you back to www.wilma.org/wdclists to determine this.  See page 4 of the application.
Also note that embedded within the Training Benefits application is a request for something called Commissioner Approved Training (or CAT, for short).  This is fancy language for permission to go to school while drawing your Unemployment.  CAT does not extend your Unemployment benefits; it just gives you permission to go to school.  If you are approved for CAT, ESD will suspend the requirement for you to look for work so that you can focus on school.  If, and only if, you are approved.  See page 6 and 7 of the application. 

Therefore, in submitting the Training Benefits application, you're actually asking the Employment Security Department for two things - training benefits (additional weeks of Unemployment) and commissioner approved training (permission to go to school).  This is why the application is sometimes referred to as a TB/CAT or CAT/TB application. 

Once you have completed your Training Benefits application, you will need a representative from the college to review and sign off on the application so as to certify that the information you provided about your training program is reasonable and correct.  Make sure the college rep you ask to review and sign you application is qualified to do so.  Your final step is to submit the completed application, along with all corresponding printouts and job logs, either to the Training Benefits Unit by mail, or to your local WorkSource Affiliate in person. 

Oh, and one last thing.  The Training Benefits application is time sensitive.  As stated on page 1, ESD says you have 90 days to submit the application.  Specifically, that 90 day clock started ticking once you received your initial Unemployment Claims Kit in the mail.

If you have any questions regarding your 90 day deadline, or have further questions about your eligibility for training benefits or commissioner approved training, it's always a safe bet to connect with a WorkSource Specialist or an Unemployment Liason.  Get answers from a trusted authority and not from the rumor mill.

Hopefully, it's all starting to make a little bit of sense.