SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — After of waiting weeks for some form of state assistance, thousands of unemployed gig workers in California could finally begin filing for unemployment benefits on Tuesday.

The office of the California Employment Development Department unveiled its Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program

The newly available emergency unemployment assistance program falls under funding from the federal CARES Act. PUA provides assistance for unemployed or partially unemployed individuals who are not eligible for regular unemployment insurance and who are unable or unavailable to work due to COVID-19 outbreak.

Self-employed, with a couple part-time jobs on the side, Barbara Dimas falls into two categories of workers now eligible for unemployment in California, and on Tuesday she said she just made her way through the application process.

“And it was a process,” she says. “I got booted off the system, I couldn’t get into the system, because so many people – millions of people – are going into that little website.”

“There are too many unemployed workers right now,” said gig worker Farrukh Kozimov, now among the other group of workers eligible to receive unemployment benefits.

“I used to work for Lyft and Uber,” he says. “Right now I’m working on DoorDash and GrubHub.”

Even though he’s still working, he could make a claim for lost income. Based on his filings, the state would decide how much he might be eligible for. Kosimov has decided against that.

“So I am earning money, which is enough for me,” Kosimov explains. “And there are other people who really need this money and who are not working right now.”

“I have my fingers crossed, yeah,”  Dimas said of her hopes of obtaining assistance.

That is the other concern, that the backlog could delay payments for weeks or longer. It’s just another worry, for those out of work.

“With each passing week you realize how much life is going to be changed going forward,” said Dimas.

According to the State of California, here are the answers to some frequently asked questions:

You may qualify for PUA benefits if:

    • You are unemployed, partially unemployed, unable to work or unavailable to work as a direct result of a COVID-19 related reason and you are a business owner, self-employed, independent contractor or gig worker (and are not participating in the UI Elective Coverage Program).

 

    • You will be able to indicate if you have no employment wages (for example, you did not receive a W-2), solely for the purpose of applying for the PUA program (and not to be used for any other purpose). However, you may proceed with a regular UI claim if you believe you were misclassified and have wages from an employer.

 

    • You can apply even if you don’t have sufficient work history. This generally means you don’t have enough wages reported as an employee during the last 18 months to establish a regular UI claim. This could be the case if you are self-employed or an independent contractor. But this could also be the case if you are an employee with insufficient earnings.

 

    • To qualify for PUA based on insufficient work history, you must have been recently employed, which could be satisfied if you had a bona fide offer to start working on a specific date but were unable to start as a direct result of a COVID-19 related reason

 

  • You can also apply it you have collected all unemployment benefits for which you were eligible and remain unemployed or partially unemployed as a direct result of a COVID-19 reason. This means that you were qualified for regular UI but have exhausted those benefits, as well as any extended benefits.

What are the COVID-19 related reasons for being out of work under the PUA program?

    • You have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking a medical diagnosis.

 

    • You are unable to work because a health care provider advised you to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.

 

    • A member of your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

 

    • You are providing care for a family member or a member of your household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

 

    • A child or other person in the household for whom you have primary caregiving responsibility is unable to attend school or another facility that is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 and the school or facility care is required for you to work.

 

    • You became the breadwinner or major support for a household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19.

 

    • You have to quit your job as a direct result of COVID-19.

 

    • Your place of employment is closed as a direct result of COVID-19.

 

    • You were scheduled to start a job that is now unavailable as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

 

    • You are unable to reach the place of employment as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

 

    • If you work as an independent contractor with reportable income, you may also qualify for PUA benefits if you are unemployed, partially employed, or unable or unavailable to work because the COVID-19 public health emergency has severely limited your ability to continue performing your customary work activities, and has thereby forced you to stop working.

 

 

How much would I receive in PUA benefits?
In order to provide benefits as quickly as possible, payments will be issued in phases. If you qualify for PUA the initial payments you will receive are as follows:

    • $167.00 per week, for each week from February 2, 2020 to March 28, 2020 that you were unemployed due to a COVID-19 related reason.
      AND
      $167.00 plus $600 per week, for each week from March 29, 2020 to July 25, 2020, that you are unemployed due to a COVID-19 related reason.
      AND
      $167.00 per week, for each week from July 26, 2020 to December 26, 2020, that you are unemployed due to a COVID-19 related reason, up to a total of 39 weeks (minus any weeks of regular UI and certain extended UI benefits that you have received).

 

    • If you qualify for your claim to be backdated to an earlier PUA effective date based on your last day of work, you could receive payment for prior weeks you were unemployed due to COVID-19. You will be required to provide the EDD eligibility information every two weeks. This is known as certifying for benefits.

 

 

After these initial payments, depending on your prior earnings, your weekly amount of $167.00 per week may be increased. You will have an opportunity to certify your prior income on your PUA application.

The EDD is working to establish efficient procedures to determine if an increase to the weekly PUA amount will be appropriate after an individual receives the initial weekly amount. In addition to applying to future benefits, any increase from the $167 amount also applies retroactively.

This means that you may also receive payment to make up the difference you should have been paid if your benefits had initially been based on the increased amount. You will be notified of any increase that you are entitled to receive.

Example
If you apply for PUA on April 28, 2020, the first day it will be available, and you certify you were unemployed due to COVID-19 since March 8, you have been unemployed for 7 full weeks. If you meet the COVID-19-related criteria for PUA, we will calculate your amount as follows —

March 8-March 28 = 3 weeks x $167/week = $501

March 29-April 25 = 4 weeks x $167/week (with extra $600) = $3,068

TOTAL: $3,569 (from March 8 – April 25)

 

How soon could I receive PUA benefits?
If approved and after certifying, you may be able to receive your first PUA payment within approximately 2 days if you have an existing EDD debit card (and there are no issues that require a further review of eligibility), and within 4 to 7 days when new debit cards and checks are mailed.

Click here for answers to other questions you may have on the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

 

Wilson Walker contributed to this report

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