The expected surge in unemployment insurance claims as a result of the coronavirus pandemic was quantified this week, with a record 3.3 million filing for just the week of March 16 alone. If you are among them, you can expect to see a $600-per-week across-the-board increase in unemployment benefits, up from a check of $385 per week in January. That's one of the results of the latest federal legislative package responding to the coronavirus crisis, authorizing another massive increase in unemployment insurance benefits.
The package promises these higher benefits for unemployment recipients for up to four months. The bill creates a new program, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, for self-employed and contract workers who are typically ineligible for UI. It provides some incentives for work-sharing, a program whereby the government covers a portion of lost wages for workers whose hours have been reduced. The intention here is to incentivize companies to retain workers by just employing them for less time.
According to the latest guidance from the State of California Employment Development Department, if you are temporarily out of work and plan to return to the same employer, you do not need to meet the usual requirement of looking for work while you are collecting unemployment insurance. However, if you are not attached to a particular employer with a job to return to, you are required to look for work while collecting benefits. You can do that from home, for example, by searching for jobs online.
As you might guess, the EDD website and application process is completely overwhelmed right now. If it takes you more than five business days to connect by phone, ask the E.D.D. to backdate your claim to the Sunday before you started calling; just keep documentation of your attempts (like screenshots of your call log).
Here are some FAQ's from the EDD:
How long will it take for my claim to make it through the process?
- When an unemployed worker files a claim, the process typically takes about three weeks from filing to the EDD making benefit payments to eligible workers. Claim processing will take additional time and require EDD to ask for further information from a worker if:
- The information submitted does not match wage records.
- A worker’s identity cannot be verified. Examples of situations where a claim could be delayed include a worker misclassified by their employer as an independent contractor instead of an employee, or a worker whose data may have been transposed when reporting it to the EDD.
What is the best way to ensure I submit all the required information?
To ensure the fastest processing possible, use the UI Checklist for collecting the information necessary to apply for benefits and apply through the EDD’s UI Online from your personal computer or mobile phone. Are there changes to the application? Starting Friday, March 27, workers applying for unemployment benefits will be asked to check the options on the application’s drop-down menu that indicate the Coronavirus is the reason for your unemployment or reduced wages.
How do I open a UI Online account?
For assistance on how to open a UI Online account and how to use the system for filing and re-opening a claim, as well as certifying for ongoing benefits, visit our video tutorials through the EDD website. Tutorials are available in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Vietnamese.
If you’re a parent whose child’s school has been canceled, what options do you have for taking leave from work?
Beginning April 2 through Dec. 31, under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, eligible employees can receive 10 paid sick days and up to 12 weeks of extended leave when a parent cannot work because of the closure of a child’s school or child care because of Covid-19. (Read more on who is excluded and what benefits are included.)
Workers in California may also be eligible for paid sick days that can be used during school closures under state law, which provides a minimum of three days with full pay. Local laws may provide more.
Additionally, the California Family School Partnership Act entitles workers at employers with 25 or more employees to up to 40 hours of job-protected, unpaid leave per year in a child care emergency, including the closure or unavailability of a school or child care provider.
Beyond paid sick days and paid leave, you can apply for unemployment insurance if you need to care for a child whose school is closed, and you’ve exhausted other options for care.
To illustrate how this works, if you can’t work because you need to care for your child whose school has closed due to Covid-19, you can receive two weeks as paid sick days and 10 more weeks as paid leave, both at two-thirds pay up to $200 per day. After that, if your child’s school is still closed and you cannot work, you can apply for unemployment insurance, which will pay up to $450 per week for up to 26 weeks.
If your child (or another close family member) is sick with Covid-19 or another serious health condition, you can apply for California Paid Family Leave (P.F.L.) to take care of them. P.F.L. provides 60 percent or 70 percent of your wages, depending on income, for six weeks (extended to eight weeks, beginning July 1), and there is no waiting period.
The best way to apply for Paid Family Leave is online, using State Disability Insurance (S.D.I.) Online. The E.D.D. also accepts P.F.L. applications by mail, but you have to request that a hard copy be mailed to you (unlike with unemployment insurance, which allows you to mail or fax a form printed from the E.D.D.’s website). [Here’s more on what you need for your application].
The Employment Development Department also will require a medical certification or written order from a state or local health officer documenting that your family member is infected with or suspected of being infected with Covid-19. Covered family members include children, parents, parents-in-law, siblings, grandparents and grandchildren. Doctors can upload a certification to the E.D.D. if you apply for benefits online. Otherwise, they have to fill out a portion of the hard copy form.
Employees who are sick with Covid-19 can apply for S.D.I. benefits online or by mail. State Disability Insurance provides the same pay rate as Paid Family Leave (60 or 70 percent of your income, up to a cap of $1,300 per week), and can continue for 52 weeks, with no waiting period for coronavirus-related claims. To apply, you will need a certification from a doctor documenting your condition, or a written order from a state or local health officer stating that you have (or are suspected of having) Covid-19.
Although you cannot claim unemployment insurance, S.D.I. and P.F.L. at the same time, you can use these benefits consecutively.
For more information about your workplace rights related to coronavirus, see Legal Aid at Work’s F.A.Q. or contact its virtual Workers’ Rights Clinic at (415) 404-9093 for a free, confidential consultation.
As an employer, what am I required to provide for my employees if they need to take sick time or care for a relative because of Covid-19?
Effective April 2 through Dec. 31, the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act will require government employers and private employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide 10 paid sick days to workers to address their own Covid-19 illness, mandatory self-isolation or quarantine (at 100 percent pay, up to $511 per day). [Read more on how much you can get, and what employers are exempt.]
All employers in California also must provide at least three paid sick days at full pay, and employers in several localities are required to provide more. Paid sick days can be used for an employee’s own illness or a family member’s, including preventive care.
Under California law, employers with at least 50 employees must provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave, with continued health benefits, to an employee who is seriously ill or who needs to care for a seriously ill parent, minor or adult dependent child, spouse or registered domestic partner. Employees are eligible if they have been on the job for one year and have worked 1,250 hours in the year before their leave begins.
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