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Schiff Presses California Labor Agency to Open Application for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program

04.10.20

New Program Extends Unemployment Compensation to Freelance, Contract and Gig Workers; Benefits Retroactive to February

Washington D.C. – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) sent a letter to California Labor Secretary Julie A. Su urging the Employment Development Department (EDD) to prioritize making the application for the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program publicly available as soon as possible. This federally funded program provides compensation to unemployed workers who are not eligible for regular state benefits—including self-employed, freelance, gig, and contract workers—but EDD has not begun accepting PUA claims.

“I represent thousands of independent, freelance, contract, and gig workers—including many in the entertainment industry—who often do not fully qualify for standard unemployment benefits,” Schiff wrote in the letter. “The CARES Act, which was signed into law two weeks ago, dramatically expands unemployment coverage, and I led an effort in the House to extend this coverage to nontraditional and independent workers. As states are now working to implement these expanded federal benefits, I am hearing from many of my newly eligible constituents who are concerned because they are not yet able to apply and who are increasingly worried as their financial responsibilities continue to mount without anticipated income.”

Governor Newsom recently announced that workers who qualify for regular state benefits will receive the $600 CARES Act Pandemic Additional Compensation (PAC) payments beginning this Sunday. However, because the application for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is not yet available, thousands of self-employed, freelance, gig, and contract workers newly eligible for federally funded PUA payments under the CARES Act have not yet been able to apply.

“I recognize the extraordinary volume of claims that the EDD is now facing, and I am confident that you and your staff are working with all possible speed to process claims quickly, including those who the CARES Act made newly eligible for benefits,” Schiff’s letter continued.

Schiff also requested that the EDD update its coronavirus webpage daily so that workers awaiting new benefits know they are accessing up-to-date information. In addition, Schiff asked EDD to consider letting these workers create accounts and indicate their intent to apply so they can be notified as soon as the application is available. In doing so, EDD could ensure workers are fully informed and understand that benefits are available retroactively to February 2, 2020 for work impacted by the pandemic, and they will not miss out on assistance due to delays in processing.

The State of California has processed 2.3 million unemployment insurance claims in the past four weeks. Applications for the most recent week were up 2400% over 2019.

Full text of the letter is below:

April 10, 2020

The Honorable Julie A. Su
Secretary
California Labor and Workforce Development Agency
800 Capitol Mall, Suite 5000
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Secretary Su:

Thank you for your work on behalf of working Californians during the unprecedented health and economic crisis our state is facing. As you are well aware, the outbreak of coronavirus and the sweeping disruptions to public life that are crucial to slowing its spread have disrupted work for Californians at a scale unseen in our state’s history, placing new levels of strain on our Unemployment Insurance system with millions filing for assistance in the span of weeks.

I recognize the extraordinary volume of claims that the Employment Development Department (EDD) is now facing, and I am confident that you and your staff are working with all possible speed to process claims quickly, including those who the CARES Act made newly eligible for benefits. As you continue this work, I urge you to prioritize making the application for the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program publicly available as soon as possible.

I represent thousands of independent, freelance, contract, and gig workers—including many in the entertainment industry—who often do not fully qualify for standard unemployment benefits. The CARES Act, which was signed into law two weeks ago, dramatically expands unemployment coverage, and I led an effort in the House to extend this coverage to nontraditional and independent workers. As states are now working to implement these expanded federal benefits, I am hearing from many of my newly eligible constituents who are concerned because they are not yet able to apply and who are increasingly worried as their financial responsibilities continue to mount without anticipated income.

As you seek to do so, I also ask that the EDD update its coronavirus webpage daily, if possible, so that workers awaiting new benefits can know they are accessing up-to-date information. In addition, if you anticipate that the application for newly eligible workers will not be available by next week, EDD should also consider letting these workers create accounts and indicate their intent to apply so they can be notified as soon as the application is available. In doing so, you could also ensure they are fully informed and understand that benefits are available retroactively, and they will not miss out on assistance due to the delay in processing.

This is an unprecedented crisis, and I am grateful for your hard work to ensure every affected worker will have timely access to vital benefits. Thank you for your attention to my requests, and please let me know if there is any way I can be of assistance.

Sincerely,

Adam B. Schiff

Member of Congress

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