Unemployment benefits now available to CA’s self-employed, others who don’t typically qualify amid COVID-19 crisis

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A young passenger wears a face mask as Uber and Lyft drivers with Rideshare Drivers United and the
 Transport Workers Union of America conduct a ‘caravan protest’ outside the California Labor Commissioner’s office amidst the coronavirus pandemic on April 16, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

A young passenger wears a face mask as Uber and Lyft drivers with Rideshare Drivers United and the
 Transport Workers Union of America conduct a ‘caravan protest’ outside the California Labor Commissioner’s office amidst the coronavirus pandemic on April 16, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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California workers who don’t typically qualify for unemployment benefits can now submit applications for financial assistance if they have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, a state official announced Monday.

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Program began accepting applications on Tuesday from people who don’t traditionally qualify for unemployment benefits, California Labor Secretary Julie Su announced on Facebook Live.

PUA is designed for those who are self-employed, business owners, independent workers, freelance workers, those with limited work history, and anyone who has exhausted their unemployment insurance benefits and extensions, Su said.

“We are going to pay out the minimum amount automatically, you will then have time to certify or to demonstrate that you had income; you can substantiate a higher income that would justify a higher than the minimum amount of $167 per week in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance,”Su explained. “Once you do that, we will pay that higher amount retroactively.”

Those who qualify will receive the $167 weekly, plus $600 per week for each week from March 29 to July 25.

The PUA benefits last for 39 weeks and are set to expire at the end of December. Information on PUA extensions was not yet available, Su said.

Applicants will be asked to self-declare their income for 2019. Su asked for applicants to be patient with the process and said there are changes and improvements in the works to help with the overwhelming amount of applications waiting to be processed.

“In the last four weeks since the coronavirus pandemic hit, California has received and processed more applications than in all of 2019.” Su said. “I have called the call center myself to evaluate where we are and what we need to do better.”

On Monday the Employment Development Department’s call center began its new extended 12-hour call center service hours, with employees taking calls and processing applications from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

For more information on PUA, or to apply online, visit edd.ca.gov.

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