A Guide to the CARES Act

Prepared by the Office of Senator Scott D. Wiener (D-San Francisco)


Individuals - Program Basics

Individuals are eligible to receive unemployment benefits and cash payments to aid with financial difficulties. It also expands unemployment benefits to non-traditional recipients, including independent contractors and gig workers, through Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).


Unemployment Insurance

The exact amount you can receive through unemployment depends on your state and your previous earnings. If you are a traditional employer who has had your hours reduced or lost your job, you should apply for unemployment through the California EDD.

In addition to state benefits, an additional $600 will be added to every unemployment compensation check issued between March 29th and July 25th, using federal funds.

The CARES Act also extends eligibility for unemployment by 13 weeks. If you have exhausted unemployment compensation available through California EDD, you can still receive an additional 13 weeks of federally-funded unemployment, which will also be processed through the state EDD. Expanded eligibility will be in effect through the end of the year. Those who are eligible will be automatically processed for the extension by EDD and do not need to take any additional action. 


Cash Payments

Anyone who made less than $75,000 should have received $1,200, married couples received $2,400, and under-17 children received $500. Those making more also received partial payments. The money is not taxable.

Most people should have received their money automatically, based on tax returns. Rebates sent via check - rather than direct deposit - could take several months.


Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

PUA will allow independent contractors and gig workers to receive unemployment, including the $600 in additional money that the federal government will be adding to UI checks between March and July. The program launched on April 28th, and you can now apply online through the EDD UI portal here. Visit the EDD's list of PUA FAQs for more information.


Small Businesses - Program Basics

Small businesses and nonprofits (fewer than 500 workers), sole proprietorships, independent contractors, and freelancers can apply for new federal aid. In some cases, larger companies in particular industries are also eligible.

There are two main programs, both being run out of the Small Business Administration (SBA): The Payment Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). In most instances, you can apply to get help from both.



PPP offers a loan of up to $10 million to help pay for  payroll costs, as well as some additional expenses like rent and utility payments. It is designed to help you retain workers or hire back employees that have been laid off. The loan can be forgiven if money is used for that purpose. Collateral is not required. 



EIDL offers low-interest loans to cover business expenses. You can get a quicker advance on the loan, and a portion of those loans do not have to be paid back. You can apply directly via the SBA through the online loan application.


Links to More Information

For the most updated guidance from the SBA, go here.

Other useful guidance on federal/CARES Act resources:

To visit our general guide for small business resources, click here.