Apr 20, 2020
By Jeniffer Wertz, Russian River Alliance, Workforce Housing Fund Manager
Addendum - FAQS on Unemployment benefits during COVID-19
compiled by Ceylan Karasapan-Crow, SCG
Skip to FAQs and CA links
As we all know, this pandemic is causing massive economic difficulties. While the Lower Russian River Workforce Fund does not have the capacity to help everyone impacted with rent, I’ve been putting together all the ideas and programs I can to try and help assist as many people as we can with our limited budget and small volunteer staff.
If you have been financially impacted please read through all of this information. We are not going to be able to just give everyone enough money, so I am urging you to be proactive at doing what you can to help yourself.
1 - For those who have been paying into unemployment, check California Employment Development Department Covid-19. They have expanded and expedited some coverage. The sooner you apply, the sooner you start receiving money.
2 - Start calling the companies you pay bills to and ask for reduced or deferred payments due to Coronavirus related lost income. I’ve had very good success with this so far myself. I recommend using on-line chat with Xfinity rather than calling. They are doing deferments, waiving late fees, and offering unlimited data for free for example. I heard even banks are doing this with mortgages, but be prepared to wait on hold a long time (which is likely to get worse the longer you wait to call).
3 - We need some help identifying local employees who have been layed off due to Covid-19 business closures. If you are a local business owner or manager (between Forestville and Caz, including Occidental but not Sebastopol) please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me how many employees you have out of work who may need emergency assistance with food, plus your contact info. We are going to need your help distributing gift cards to your out-of-work employees. If you are a local worker who has been layed off, please give this info to your manager or owner and have them contact me via e-mail.
4 - The Workforce Fund can assist with bus passes for those who need to find a job out of town and do not have transportation. E-mail jwertz@email@example.com.
5 - While many jobs have been shut down, places like Safeway, Costco, Amazon, and delivery companies are hiring. If you have a license/car, consider signing up for a delivery gig such as Door Dash, Flex Cart, etc. to help you through this.
6 - Help each other if you can. This is a really tough time for a lot of people. Some are in a much better position than others. If you still have a job and are suddenly working a lot of hours, consider helping out your friends and neighbors who just lost theirs again with no notice for about the 3rd time this year during the off-season.
7 - Do everything you can to not get sick or cause someone else to get sick. This is bad enough without that becoming an additional factor.
Please take it seriously. Intentional ignorance and willful disregard puts you and other people at higher risk. We can’t add having our whole community sick and/or dying to this situation.
Don’t take your kids or go to the grocery store sick for example.
Don’t ignore the social distancing that is being recommended.
Do your part to help us all get through this.
What is unemployment insurance and how do I get it?
Unemployment insurance is a joint program between the federal government and the states set up to provide some money to people who are trying to get a job but can't find one. The benefit has also been enhanced by the CARES Act passed by the federal government last week.
To apply, you can file online.
Every one of the 50 states has an online application system
How much can I get?
The maximum weekly benefit varies by state. For instance, in Florida, it tops out at $275 while in New York, the maximum is $504.
But under the federal relief bill, everyone will get an additional $600 a week until July 31.
How long do benefits last?
Typically, some states offer fewer weeks of benefits than others. But under the CARES Act, anyone who is still out of work when their state benefit period runs out will be able to get payments for an additional 13 weeks from the federal government.
Through these various steps, all those who are out of work will be able to get assistance for up to 39 weeks.
Someone's hiring?: Retailers hiring due to coronavirus demand
Can I file a jobless claim if I work for myself or in the gig economy?
Yes. Independent contractors, freelancers and gig workers will be able to get benefits through a new pandemic assistance program established by the CARES act.
Is there a waiting period before you can apply for or receive benefits?
Previously some states made people wait a week before applying for benefits, but the federal relief bill encourages states to waive that waiting period, and many states have done so because of the pandemic.
Apply for benefits the day you become unemployed
Don't expect to immediately get a check.
Getting rid of the waiting week doesn't have anything to do with processing times, before the current crisis, it could take two to three weeks for your first check to arrive. Inadequate staffing and antiquated computer systems may also slow down the acceptance of claims.
But help is on the way. The federal government has designated $1 billion to go toward beefing up staff to process claims, and many states are asking employers to let them know up front when they have laid off employees, speeding up the process.
Do you have to check in regularly to continue getting benefits?
Normally, those receiving benefits would have to check in with their state agency every week to let administrators know they remain out of work as well as what job searches they've done.
Now the job search requirement is generally being waived. But you may still need to go online weekly to confirm you're still unemployed.
How long will the COVID-19 related federal program last?
It will be in place from Jan. 27, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2020. The extra $600 weekly benefit, however, will stop at the end of July.
I live in one state but work in another. Where do I file my jobless claim?
You should apply where you work, not where you live, your company is paying taxes in the state where you do your job, and those officials will have all your relevant information on file.
If I have two jobs, and I lose one, can I apply for unemployment?
Yes. You would be eligible for partial unemployment insurance. The formula for figuring out how much aid you can get varies by state, but you should be able to receive some financial assistance.
What if my workplace temporarily shuts down because of COVID-19 and I can't go work?
Federal officials are giving states leeway because of the pandemic, so yes, your state could give you unemployment insurance benefits if your job site shuts down due to the virus.
What if I still have a job, but I can't work because I'm quarantined?
Because of COVID-19, your state can choose to provide you with financial assistance while you are off work.
What if I leave my job because of a risk of exposure to the virus, or to take care of a relative who's been infected?
It's up to your state, but yes, you could receive unemployment benefits for each of those scenarios.
If my child's school or daycare center is closed and I can't go to work, can I get unemployment?
Yes. You can get federal aid, even if your state doesn't provide it.
What if I work part-time and lose my job because of the virus? Can I get benefits?
It depends on the state and it's not clear how the federal relief act may impact those rules.
My workplace shut before I could start my new job, or I was laid off soon after I started. Do I qualify for unemployment?
Yes. You can get benefits in either case.
I'm currently getting unemployment. Can I get more assistance?
Yes. All recipients will receive the extra $600 a week.
I've exhausted my benefits. What now?
You can reapply and you should be able to receive the additional 13 weeks of payments provided by the federal government and the $600 in additional weekly pay.
Is unemployment retroactive?
The pandemic aid program dates back to January 27, so those who lost jobs for COVID-19 related reasons should get a benefit starting from when they became unemployed.
Are unemployment checks taxed?
Yes. If you receive those benefits, next year you should get a 1099G form to report that income.
If I'm being furloughed vs. laid off, can I file for unemployment?
As long as your employer tells you you can’t come to work and they’re not going to pay you. You are unemployed for the purposes of collecting unemployment.
What's the difference between being furloughed and laid off?
Furloughed workers remain on the payroll, but must take some time off without pay. Workers who are laid off are removed from a company's payroll, though they may be rehired at some point in the future
During the time I'm furloughed, will my contributions to my 401(k) or health savings account continue?
No. Employees approve deductions for each pay period, and because there’s not a paycheck, there wouldn't be a contribution
There also won't automatically be catch up deductions when you return to work. For instance, if you contribute 3% of your pay per check to your 401(k) and are furloughed for two weeks, your first check back will be minus 3%. The deduction will not be doubled.
But you can increase your contribution if you want to make up for the time you missed.
What about health insurance? Will I still be covered while on furlough?
It depends on who you work for.
If there’s language in (the employee benefit plan) that allows for continuation of health coverage during short periods of leave, the employer could continue the personal health care coverage.
It would be up to your company to spell out whether premium payments missed while you were not receiving a check would be deducted once you return to work, or if you would have to make that payment before you take off. The company might also help cover your payment.
If your employer is not going to continue covering your health insurance during your furlough period, you should be able to pay for your company health plan on your own through COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act). But such coverage can be very expensive.
The sudden and immense impact of COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. CA EDD program benefits are available to workers and employers whose earnings are impacted.https://www.edd.ca.gov/unemployment/
If you are self-employed, you may have benefits available from EDD employment insurance programs that you or your employer may have paid into over the past 5 to 18 months. You may have contributions from a prior job, or you could have been misclassified as an independent contractor instead of an employee. Apply for the benefit program that best fits your situation and include details about your employment to help us process your claim.
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