Assistance for Californians Impacted by the COVID-19 Emergency
From the Office of Senator Scott Wiener
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 June 18th it moved to the Senate floor.
- 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 is co-authoring Asm. Phil Ting's AB 828, which will help those struggling to make ends meet by imposing 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.
Urgent Updates [Last updated June 18, 2020]
- San Francisco is beginning to reopen.
- Restaurants reopened for outdoor dining on Friday, June 12th.
- On Monday, June 15, most indoor retail sales, outdoor restaurant dining, non-emergency medical appointments and professional sporting events — without fans in the seats — were allowed to resume.
- The reopening of gyms, playgrounds, swimming pools, and indoor museums is tentatively scheduled for mid-August.
- On June 16th, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to ask Gov. Newsom for permission to restart certain parts of the city’s economy — like fully opening restaurants, bars, and salons — faster than the state’s current timeline.
- Dine-in restaurants, salons and barber shops, bars, gyms, hotels and more can reopen under a new San Mateo County public health order released on June 17th.
- The CARES Act 13-week extension process for unemployment claims began on Wednesday, May 27th. Those who qualify for extensions - and whose claims fall within a benefit year that starts on or after June 2, 2019 - will be automatically entered into the extension process by EDD staff. Constituents are encouraged to check their mail and their UI online inbox for information on how to certify. Other claims, with earlier start dates for the benefit year, will be considered later in the summer.
- On May 13th Gov. Newsom released new guidance regarding the state's Undocumented Relief Fund. This state funding is expected to reach about 150,000 undocumented adults. An undocumented adult who qualifies can receive $500 in direct assistance, with a maximum of $1000 in assistance per household. The California Department of Social Services has selected twelve immigrant-serving nonprofit organizations to help individuals apply for and receive this disaster relief assistance in their region. Applications for disaster relief assistance services will be available on Monday, May 18, 2020. Applications in the Bay Area will be processed through Catholic Charities of California. San Francisco and San Mateo county applicants can go to www.catholiccharitiessf.org/.
Help for Businesses/Organizations
Help for Individuals
- Testing Information
- Unemployment Guide
- Unemployment Guide for Freelancers
- Food Resources
- Mental Health Resources
- Undocumented and Immigrant Assistance
FAQs [Last updated May 26]
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.
Initially, there was a massive backlog in testing because every test had to go through the CDC labs in Atlanta, which took up to 2 weeks. The first kits the CDC sent to state labs were faulty, and usable testing kits didn’t make it to CA labs until late February. The CDC also was not producing enough tests to meet demand. Shortages also continued for key test components, such as swabs and vials. California now has a daily testing rate of about 40,000 - 50,000 tests per day and no longer has a large backlog, as it did earlier on in the crisis.
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. These loans have low-interest rates and no payments have to be made on the loans for at least one year. They are also eligible for PPP loans (funding limited) through the CARES Act. See our guide to the CARES Act for more information on federal loans. San Francisco also has created a $9 million Small Business Emergency Loan Fund.
Additionally, my office is working with Sen. Lena Gonzalez on statewide emergency moratorium legislation for commercial evictions. Localities are currently allowed to issue orders to halt non-payment evictions for businesses. San Francisco and San Mateo county have done so.
San Francisco is also delaying payment of some taxes. More information at the Treasurer & Tax Collector site.
If you’re anticipating a large lay-off and want assistance supporting your employees and keeping your business viable, you can look into applying for the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Work Sharing Program and getting support from the EDD Rapid Response team at EDD.ca.gov.
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.
The Governor issued an Executive Order waiving the one-week unpaid waiting period, so you can collect UI benefits for the first week you are out of work. If you are eligible, the EDD processes and issues payments within a few weeks of receiving a claim.
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.
Please note that EDD phone lines are currently overloaded. Their phone hours are from 8 AM to 8 PM, seven days per week.
The fastest way to apply is online through the EDD UI portal. As before the crisis, it will typically take 3 weeks 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.
If you receive Medi-Cal, you do not have to worry about your redetermination eligibility for 90 days. The 90-day period started on March 18. Tele-health will also be reimbursed by Medi-Cal at an equivalent rate to in-person services.
In SF, people who are uninsured and do not have a primary care provider to refer them for testing should go to 50 Ivy Street (Urgent Care / Whole Person Integrated Care) Monday through Thursday 8:00am – 6:30pm, Friday 8:00am – 5:00pm, and Saturday 9:00am – 5:00pm. If emergency care is needed, go to any emergency department.
In San Mateo County, uninsured folks can get enrolled in the county’s Access and Care for Everyone (ACE) program by calling the Health Coverage Unit of the Health Plan of San Mateo at 650-616-2002. Once you are enrolled, you will then be referred to a provider at a nearby San Mateo Medical Center clinic.
The President has signed HR 6201, the federal relief package. It creates two mechanisms for coverage of testing for the uninsured – one through the Medicaid program and another through the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund. This means that testing will be fully covered for the uninsured.
Effective March 20, anyone uninsured who meets eligibility requirements can sign up through Covered California or Medi-Cal until June 30, 2020. Special enrollment will be expanded to encompass the entire individual market, including all off-exchange health insurance plans. Financial assistance is available through Covered California for eligible consumers through state subsidies that started this year. Coverage through Covered California becomes effective the first of the following month after consumers sign up.
5) How can I receive the 13-week extension of unemployment benefits that was authorized by the CARES Act?
The EDD has been working around the clock to implement a new 13-week federal extension of unemployment benefits called the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) established in the federal CARES Act.
Due to the different dates, eligibility requirements, and interactions with other UI programs, including the new PUA program, the implementation of this extension has increased complexities. In order to make these PEUC benefits available as quickly as possible during this historic pandemic, the EDD will be rolling the extension out in two phases.
Phase 1 – Starting May 27th, the EDD will begin automatically filing PEUC extensions for those who exhausted all available benefits on their claim with a benefit year that started on or after June 2, 2019, and expects the first phase to be completed in early June. These individuals will receive a notice through the mail about 5-7 days after the PEUC extension is filed. This notice will include instructions on how to certify for extension benefit payments if you remain unemployed. Claimants are also encouraged to watch for updates in the Inbox of their UI Online account.
Phase 2 – Starting in early July, the EDD will begin mailing notices to those who ran out of their regular UI benefits sometime after July 2018 who are not part of the more recent group of those who exhausted benefits in Phase 1. More details will be released later. But the EDD recommends these individuals who remain out of work apply for another UI claim through UI Online if they haven’t already done so. The EDD will be required to first check whether or not they would qualify for a new regular claim before an extension could be filed.
6) If I am an independent contractor, but I previously applied for UI and did not receive benefits, what do I need to do to access PUA?
Independent contractors who were disqualified or given $0 in UI awards when they previously applied DO NOT need to contact EDD or do anything to cancel or appeal their previous UI application before applying for PUA.
Please note that some independent contractors who previously applied for UI before PUA was rolled out and were denied are now having trouble accessing a new application in order to apply for PUA (they say there just isn’t a new place to apply in the UI online portal). We believe that this has been fixed in many accounts, but you can reach out to our office at 415-557-1300 if you are still having difficulties.
7) If I am an independent contractor with a small amount of income from W2 employee wages, can I apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)?
Most independent contractors who have even a very small amount of W2 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 W2 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, W2 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. Please contact our office at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to receive an update on this issue.