Assistance for Californians Impacted by the COVID-19 Emergency
From the Office of Senator Scott Wiener
Last updated: July 2020
What Our Office is Doing
- On May 5th, Senator Scott Wiener introduced legislation (SB 932) that would require California to collect data on the health impacts of COVID-19 on the LGBTQ community, including infection, hospitalization, ICU, recovery, and mortality rates.
- On March 20, Senator Wiener and Senator Lena Gonzales (Long Beach) introduced SB 939, which places a moratorium on commercial evictions, including small businesses and nonprofits, for the duration of the COVID-19 health emergency. Unfortunately, it did not reach the Senate floor.
- Senator Wiener co-authored Asm. Phil Ting's AB 828, which would impose a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures for residents whose incomes have been diminished because of the coronavirus.
- The Senator has authored a letter with his colleagues calling for action by EDD to address long wait times and unsatisfactory service to constituents.
- We have hosted two blood drives to help address the blood shortage and draw attention to continued discrimination against gay and bi men by the FDA.
- The Senator has hosted or participated in more than 30 town halls since the shelter-in-place order was issued, and we are sending out regular updates to constituents. Check the Senator's social media for regular livestreams, and check back here for announcements regarding official town halls.
- Need assistance from a state agency? We are answering our phones. Call our office at 415-557-1300. If no one picks up, we are on the line with another constituent. Leave a voicemail and we will get back to you shortly.
Help for Businesses/Organizations
Help for Individuals
- Testing Information
- Unemployment Guide
- Unemployment Guide for Freelancers
- Food Resources
- Mental Health Resources
- Undocumented and Immigrant Assistance
1) Why is it so difficult to get tested? Where can I go to get tested?
Testing is quickly being expanded, and most people can now access tests, though priority is still being given to the symptomatic, frontline workers, and those who are otherwise at-risk. There are many facilities where you can be tested in the district - see our page on testing for open sites and links to the most updated information.
As of July 10, 2020, California now has a daily testing rate of about 80,000 - 100,000 tests per day.
2) What protections exist for small businesses? Small landlords?
Small businesses and landlords can both seek disaster relief loans from the federal Small Business Administration.
For more information - and links to outside resources - see our small business resources page.
3) What protections exist for those impacted by lay-offs, particularly for independent contractors and those in the entertainment industry?
If your employer has reduced your hours or shut down operations due to COVID-19, you can file an Unemployment Insurance (UI) claim. UI provides partial wage replacement benefit payments to workers who lose their job or have their hours reduced, through no fault of their own. Eligible individuals can receive benefits that range from $40-$450 per week.
For more information on UI benefits for employees, visit our unemployment one-pager. For more information on benefits for independent contractors, view our step-by-step guide to unemployment for freelancers.
The fastest way to apply is online through the EDD UI portal. It will typically take a month for a UI claim to process (independent contractors going through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance process may see faster times).
The state has also launched onwardca.org, where those who have become unemployed because of the pandemic can connect with those who are hiring.
4) What healthcare coverage exists for those seeking care for COVID-19, and what is being done to help uninsured people?
If you are insured (commercial or Medi-Cal), there is no share-of-cost for COVID care. This includes waiving cost-sharing for emergency room, urgent care, or provider office visits when the purpose of the visit is to be screened and tested for COVID-19.
5) How can I receive the 13-week extension of unemployment benefits that was authorized by the CARES Act?
Those who are eligible for extensions of benefits should be processed for those benefits automatically. Those whose benefits have expired should in most cases immediately qualify for the 13 weeks of PEUC benefits. Additional weeks may be available beyond that - up to 20 for those on UI and up to 7 for those on PUA claims. Again, those who are eligible should be automatically processed.
6) If I am an independent contractor with a small amount of income from W-2 employee wages, can I apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)?
Most independent contractors who have even a very small amount of W-2 work are not eligible for PUA because of how the CARES Act was written; it only created PUA for people who could not qualify for existing state UI. As such, if you have mixed income sources, you can likely still access regular UI - but only the wages for the W-2 work will be counted in calculating your weekly award amount.
If your W-2 wages are extremely low, then you may not qualify for regular UI due to "insufficient earnings." In that case, you could still apply for PUA. To get a sense of how much you would qualify for with your W-2 earnings, you can use the EDD's benefit calculator here (note that it is just an estimate).
We understand that for many independent contractors, W-2 work makes up a very small portion of income. Changing this requires a federal fix, and we have been working with the EDD and Speaker Pelosi’s office on the issue.