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Coronavirus Unemployment Benefits in California FAQ

COVID-19 and Unemployment Benefits in California FAQ

Get answers to common questions about new unemployment programs for those who have lost work due to COVID-19.
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Am I Eligible for Unemployment Benefits in California?
 
How the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Affects California Unemployment Benefits

Updated: 2021-03-11 by

1. What are coronavirus unemployment benefits?

2. How do I apply for unemployment if I am out of work due to COVID-19?

3. Can self-employed people and gig workers who have lost work due to COVID-19 collect unemployment?

4. How much will I get in unemployment benefits if I am unemployed due to COVID-19?

5. How long will my benefits last if I am unemployed because of COVID-19?

6. Can I collect unemployment if I was furloughed due to COVID-19?

7. Can I collect unemployment if I am quarantined or have symptoms of COVID-19?

8. Can I collect unemployment if I can’t work because my child’s school or care facility was closed due to COVID-19?

9. Where can I find the latest information on how California is dealing with unemployment claims relating to coronavirus?

1. What are coronavirus unemployment benefits?

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Employment Security Act (the CARES Act) created several new unemployment programs, designed specifically to reach those who have lost work due to COVID-19 and the steps state and local governments have taken to stop the spread of the coronavirus. These programs have twice been extended by Congress, and will now be available until September 6, 2021 (except in those states that are cutting off these benefits early). They include:

  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which makes benefits available to those who wouldn't qualify for traditional unemployment benefits, including the self-employed, gig workers, those who have already used up their state benefits, and those who don't meet the work history eligibility requirement in their state. Learn more about the PUA program in California, including how the California Employment Development Department will calculate benefits, in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance: Unemployment Benefits for Contractors, Gig Workers, and Self-Employed Workers in California
  • Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC), which was providing $600 more per week in benefits to unemployed workers, whether they are receiving traditional unemployment benefits or pandemic unemployment assistance. However, this program expired at the end of July 2020. Congress has renewed the program twice at a lower rate: $300 per week in additional benefits from December 26, 2020 until September 6, 2021 (except in those states that are cutting off these benefits early). (Certain claimants with both employment and self-employment income may be eligible for $400 per week). 
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which provides an additional 24 weeks of benefits to those who are still out of work when their state benefits run out. (The program originally provided 13 weeks, but Congress has extended it to 53 weeks of additional benefits.)

2. How do I apply for unemployment if I am out of work due to COVID-19?

You must apply for unemployment benefits at the California Employment Development Department, whether you are out of work due to the coronavirus public health emergency or for any other reason. Even though the special unemployment benefit programs that address COVID-19 job losses are federally funded, they are administered by state unemployment departments.

Because of the huge increase in unemployment claims due to COVID-19, many states are adopting special procedures to apply for benefits, such as schedules that require you to apply on a particular day of the week based on the first letter of your last name. Visit the website of the California Employment Development Department to get the latest information on how to apply; California also has a resource page on coronavirus and unemployment benefits.

3. Can self-employed people and gig workers who have lost work due to COVID-19 collect unemployment?

Most likely, yes. The CARES Act extends unemployment benefits to those who have lost work due to the coronavirus pandemic but are not eligible for traditional unemployment benefits. In normal times, unemployment is available only employees who are out of work through no fault of their own. But the CARES Act extends unemployment to those who are not employees, but instead are in business for themselves as independent contractors, freelancers, gig workers, and the like.

If you fall into one of these groups, you may qualify for up to 79 weeks of unemployment benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which has recently been extended until September 6, 2021 (except in those states that are cutting off these benefits early). Learn more about eligibility for PUA and how California will calculate your benefit amount in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

4. How much will I get in unemployment benefits if I am unemployed due to COVID-19?

Everyone collecting unemployment was receiving an extra $600 per week through the last full week of benefits payable in July 2020. This extra money was available to those receiving traditional unemployment benefits and those who are receiving benefits through the new pandemic unemployment assistance program. In December of 2020, Congress renewed this program at the lower rate of $300 per week, or $400 per week for certain claimants who lost  income from both employment and self-employment. Congress recently extended this new version of the program until September 6, 2021 (except in those states that are cutting off these benefits early). 

To learn more about how California calculates benefit amounts, see How Much Will I Collect in Unemployment Benefits in California.

5. How long will my benefits last if I am unemployed because of COVID-19?

In the CARES Act, Congress extended the duration of unemployment benefits. In normal circumstances, most states offer 26 weeks of benefits (although some are less generous; learn how long benefits last in California). However, the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program extends benefits for an extra 53 weeks, until the program expires on September 6, 2021 (or sooner in states that are cutting off these benefits early). 

If you are getting benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program (the new federal benefits for gig workers, self-employed workers, and others who would not be eligible for traditional unemployment benefits), you can collect benefits for up to 79 weeks, total. 

6. Can I collect unemployment if I was furloughed due to COVID-19?

Many employees have been furloughed – placed on unpaid leave – due to COVID-19 and the state and local measures put in place to combat the spread of coronavirus. You may get unemployment benefits if you are furloughed and not being paid. If you are receiving your usual pay, or you are on paid sick or family leave, however, you will not be eligible.

7. Can I collect unemployment if I am quarantined or have symptoms of COVID-19?

Yes. Many states have changed their rules to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Some states have made workers who are quarantined or ill with COVID-19 eligible for benefits.

California's Employment Development Department has a resource page on coronavirus and employment, and has also issued an FAQ page on coronavirus and unemployment benefits as well as an information page on the CARES Act

If you don’t qualify for benefits under California’s rules, you will likely qualify under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. Those who are out of work because they are quarantined, have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or have symptoms of COVID-19 and are awaiting a diagnosis, are eligible for these benefits.

8. Can I collect unemployment if I can’t work because my child’s school or care facility was closed due to COVID-19?

Yes. Many states have changed their rules to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. In some states, workers who must stay home to care for children whose school’s or daycare facilities have been closed can collect benefits.

California's Employment Development Department has a resource page on coronavirus and employment, and has also issued an FAQ page on coronavirus and unemployment benefits as well as an information page on the CARES Act

If you don’t qualify for benefits under California’s rules, you will likely qualify under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which provides benefits to those who can’t work because of school or care facility closures.

9. Where can I find the latest information on how California is dealing with unemployment claims relating to coronavirus?

The best place to look is California Employment Development Department’s website and resource page on COVID-19 and unemployment.

 

 

 

Am I Eligible for Unemployment Benefits in California?
 
How the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Affects California Unemployment Benefits

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