Unemployment claims soar past $10 billion, with many Californians still waiting

California

About $10.1 billion in unemployment benefits have been distributed to Californians since the COVID-10 pandemic began to affect many businesses in mid-March—a staggering amount that’s unprecedented in the state’s history, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday.

Just over 4 million people received those benefits, including 450,000 who filed through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, a part of the federal CARES Act that provides help to self-employed or gig economy workers who typically don’t qualify for regular unemployment.

“These are numbers no one thought they’d seen in our lifetime,” Newsom said.

In addition to benefits already given out, the state continues to process a flood of claims as businesses remain closed due to the statewide stay-at-home order.

In the week ending April 25, the latest available data from the state, the California Employment Development Department processed about 328,000 unemployment insurance claims.

The agency has expanded its hours and added hundreds of personnel to answer inquiries, but Newsom acknowledged the efforts are still falling short for many still waiting to receive assistance.

“People are rightfully frustrated because of the deep anxiety and stress they have about their ability to pay, even for basic things like food and transportation, let alone housing. … We are doing our best,” the governor said.

As the state moves onto the second phase of a four-stage reopening plan Newsom laid out at the end of April, many retail businesses will be able to open their doors but with safety measures in place.

The governor criticized the counties in Northern California that have defied state orders by allowing businesses to reopen as the economy suffers.

“They’re putting the state’s progress at risk,” he said.

Newsom warned, “We’re not going back to normal. It’s back to a new normal with adaptations and modifications until we get to immunity, until we get to a vaccine.”

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