Comp Aid Program Helps Almost 5,000 WA Businesses

Offered last year by the state Department of Labor & Industries, the Employer Assistance Program has helped more than 4,800 companies avoid becoming delinquent on their workers' compensation accounts.

Noting the recession has made it difficult for businesses to pay their workers' compensation premiums, Washington state Gov. Chris Gregoire and Department of Labor & Industries Director Judy Schurke held a news conference last week in Seattle to hail the success of L&I's Employer Assistance Program. Since its launch in 2009, the program has helped more than 4,800 companies avoid becoming delinquent on their workers' compensation accounts, they said.

"Like families across Washington, businesses have seen incomes drop but still have bills to pay," Gregoire said. "When it comes to workers' compensation, businesses face another challenge: They are undercut by an underground economy in which some businesses operate without legally required protections for their workers, and try to succeed on the backs of honest businesses that follow the law."

The program allows businesses to extend payment of premiums if the are in financial difficulty. L&I created it after realizing more than half of the 13,000 delinquent employers previously had excellent records making their payments. It was slated to last nine months but has been extended.

"I want to tell employers if you have a good payment history with L&I but you're having trouble paying your workers' comp premiums now, we want you to contact us and let us help you," Schurke said. "We can set up a payment plan and, in many cases, waive late penalties and interest." The number to call is 800-301-1826.

The pair also announced Detecting Unregistered Employers, which employs software to detect businesses that fail to register and pay premiums; the program will begin this fall. L&I is also on the lookout for medical providers that overbill and injured workers who file fraudulent claims. "Our return on investment for fraud prevention has been eight to one –- for every one dollar we spend we bring back eight dollars to the Workers' Compensation Trust Fund," Schurke said. “Our goal is to make sure Washington is the least fraud-friendly state in the nation."

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