Help with Unemployment During COVID-19

LAST UPDATED: May 6, 2020

Help with Unemployment During COVID-19

State Benefits

  • If you’re unable to work because you have COVID-19 or have been exposed (certified by a medical professional) you can file a Disability Insurance (DI) claim.
  • If you’re unable to work because you are caring for an ill or quarantined family member with COVID-19 (certified by a medical professional), you can file a Paid Family Leave (PFL) claim.
  • If your child’s school is closed, and you have to miss work to be there for them, you may be eligible for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits. Eligibility considerations include if you have no other care options and if you are unable to continue working your normal hours remotely. File an Unemployment Insurance claim and EDD representatives will decide if you are eligible.
  • If your employer has reduced your hours or shut down operations due to COVID-19, you can file a UI claim, which provides partial wage replacement benefit payments. The federal government is also supplementing those payments with an extra $600 per week.
  • The state is offering a centralized landing-page for finding new work - and resources for those who are laid off - at https://onwardca.org/.

Unemployment Application Process

For non-employees, see the self-employed/independent contractor section below for relevant guidance

  • It takes at least three weeks to process a claim for unemployment benefits and issue payment to most eligible workers. Visit this link for a step-by-step guide to the EDD unemployment insurance process during the COVID-19 emergency.
  • EDD recommends applying online here. Instructional youtube videos in multiple languages on how to use the online application can be found on the same page. The PDF guide to setting up an online account is attached here. Alternatively, you can print mailing/faxing the physical form, which can be found under “by Fax or Mail” on this page (mailing instructions are on the final page of the form). This is likely to be far faster than getting through to EDD on the phone.

Additional Federal Assistance

  • Through the passage of the CARES Act, Congress has authorized several new forms of federal assistance.
    • Through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program, eligible individuals who are collecting certain UI benefits, including regular unemployment compensation, will receive an additional $600 in federal benefits per week for weeks of unemployment ending on or before July 31, 2020.
    • All Americans making less than $75,000 will receive $1,200 either via direct deposit or check. This money will be distributed on the basis of tax returns. If you did not submit a tax return in 2018/2019 and need assistance getting your money, you can do so via a partnership with TurboTax.
    • Unemployment insurance recipients can receive 13 additional weeks of benefits. See the FAWs below for more information. 
  • The California EDD has also published guidance on some additional assistance, made available through federal funds, here.

Independent Contractors/Self-Employed

  • You can now apply for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program from EDD through the existing online unemployment insurance portal here. See California’s EDD COVID-19 homepage for the most updated guidance.
  • Those who get benefits through PUA will also be eligible for the additional $600/week that was made available to other people on unemployment via the CARES act.
  • Before the crisis, there were some existing, limited benefits for those who are self-employed or contractors, through insurance programs. To be eligible, either you or an employer had to make contributions in the past 5 to 18 months. Visit Self-Employed/Independent Contractor to learn more. See below for new information regarding resources for contractors/self-employed.
  • Additionally, if you were misclassified as an independent contractor (using the Borello test for wages pre-2020 and the ABC test for wages post-2020), then you can go through the regular unemployment process and try to prove that you were misclassified. However, it is likely to take longer than the usual 3 weeks to process your claim and see a payment.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

1) If I am an independent contractor but previously applied for UI, what should I do?

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 over the last several days, but if people continue to have problems, they can reach out to our office. These 

We also advise that you visit our unemployment page for freelancers, here

2) If I am an independent contractor with a small amount of income from W2 employee wages, can I apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)?

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, you can still access regular UI - but only the wages for the W2 work will be counted in calculating your weekly award amount. 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 EDD and Speaker Pelosi’s office on the issue. Please contact our office at farris.peale@sen.ca.gov if you would like to receive an update on this issue. 

3) How can I receive the 13-week extension of unemployment benefits that was authorized by the CARES Act? 

Although the CARES Act created a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits, the EDD is still working to implement that extension for most people. Some people will be able to receive this extension fairly immediately by applying PUA. Some people will receive an extension by getting Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). How you receive that extension and when you can expect to learn more depends on the date when your previous UI benefits expired: 

a)    If you received your last benefit payment for weeks between February 2 and March 21, but are still within the one year that your claim is good for, you could be eligible for PUA benefits for the weeks you are eligible for between February 2, 2020 and March 28, 2020. While you will not be able to apply for PUA through UI Online, the EDD will send you a Notice of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Award. More updates are forthcoming.
b)    If you received your last benefit payment for weeks on or after March 21 and are still within your benefit year, you DO NOT meet federal requirements for PUA. But the EDD will automatically file an extension claim for you as soon as it’s available (the process is not yet available as of our most recent update from EDD). You will receive a notice from EDD when that claim has been filed and when you can certify for PEUC benefit payments. 
c)    If you ran out of benefits before February 2 and are still within your benefit year, you most likely will not be eligible for PUA, because you have to verify your unemployment is a direct result of the pandemic. However, you may be eligible for the new federal 13-week extension. The EDD will notify you of how to apply as soon as further details are available. 
d)    If you have run out of your benefits AND your benefit year has expired, you are encouraged to reapply for benefits through UI Online. Based on the information you provide, the EDD will determine if you qualify for a new regular UI claim based on wage data or a PUA claim. 

4) If I am disqualified or serving penalty weeks on a previous UI claim, is it possible for me to receive unemployment given the current COVID-19 emergency?

Some folks are unable to collect regular UI benefits due to a disqualification (they voluntarily quit, were fired or discharged from the employer), or they are serving a false statement penalty from a past claim. In some case, those with these circumstance could be eligible for PUA benefits. They will receive a Notice of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Award and a separate document that they’ll need to complete to give the EDD additional details that they don’t already have in order to meet PUA requirements. More updates on this process are forthcoming. 

5) When will I be able to receive funds from PUA and how much money will I receive? 

Many people have been confused about how the PUA process works and the amount of money they will receive.
a)     You do not have to begin your claim on the date that you apply for PUA, but can have the payments start from the first week when you saw a loss in wages due to COVID-19. 
b)    EDD will initially begin by issuing everyone the same payment amount - the minimum of $167, plus the $600 in federal money for weeks between March 29th and July 25th. EDD will then go back and determine whether your wages qualify you for a higher base payment (which can range between $167 and $450). They will then provide back-pay for any weeks for which you previously received an under-payment.  
c)    The EDD previously said it would take 24-48 hours to process claims. That is only true for those who already have a debit card where they can receive benefits. If someone needs to receive a card in the mail, it will likely take a week or more to access benefits. 

6) I have not yet received my debit card to receive my UI benefits from EDD. What is going on?
Bank of America processes the debit cards that people use to receive their Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits. The cards are supposed to arrive in 7-10 business days but in practice we have heard they the can take longer to arrive. There is very little EDD can do on their end to ensure the cards move faster, and for any issues with cards they suggest that constituents call BoA or go to the Bank of America page on EDD Cards at https://prepaid.bankofamerica.com/EddCard. 

7) I was awarded a weekly payment, but I now am being told I have $0 in benefits. What should I do?

We have noticed a series of errors where people are told that they qualified for benefits and are given an award amount. When they are then asked to certify for their weeks or provide additional information, their award amount suddenly goes to $0, even though they did not provide any information that should be disqualifying. Contact our office and we can get in touch with EDD to try to address this problem.

8) There is an ID issue or inaccuracy in my EDD application. What should I do? 

We strongly recommend that you carefully check your UI application before submitting it. If you make errors in the application, there is no process for making corrections later on. That being said, there have been some issues with incorrect address and our identifying information becoming associated with constituents’ EDD accounts on the backend. If you find this happened to you, reach out to our office and we can contact EDD to correct the information. 
 

9) I'm being told I don't have to certify for some weeks. What is going on?

Based on the persistent inability of claimants to access the UI Online system, if your UI benefit certification form has dates for weeks ending March 14 through May 9, you do not need to certify or recertify for UI benefits at this time. This means that in the steps for receiving UI benefits, after you apply (Step 1), EDD will take care of Step 2 for you for the weeks ending March 14 through May 9. For these weeks:

  • After you initiate your UI claim and are determined eligible, you do not need to provide a certification for your continuing biweekly payments for these weeks if you have not already done so.
  • You will automatically receive your benefit payments unless you have an existing disqualification or pending issue.
  • You will be required to provide information to the EDD if you worked during any of these weeks.The failure to provide the EDD with information that you worked during these weeks may result in an overpayment that the EDD must later recover. To inform the EDD that you worked during these weeks, use Ask EDD by selecting Unemployment Insurance Benefits, then Payments, and then EDD Paid Me and I Returned to Work, Need to Report Wages.

We will contact you at a later time with instructions on how to provide retroactive certifications for this time period, including answering a series of eligibility questions.

Reference links for most updated guidance: