California to launch website to help self-employed file for unemployment


After weeks of frustration for independent contractors and gig workers trying to file for unemployment benefits, help may finally be on the way. California will be launching a new website for self-employed workers that promises to streamline the application process and help workers get their benefits faster. “The phone call that tells you who to talk to is a voicemail that says, ‘Oh, we’re experiencing a high volume of calls,’ and it just hangs up,” said Chris Hopkins of Natomas. Hopkins and thousands of other self-employed or gig workers are extremely frustrated trying to apply for unemployment benefits. Hopkins makes his living as a DJ and had been a Lyft driver for four years. He said navigating his way through the application process is stressful and confusing. “I went on unemployment, didn’t see anything. I heard some talk we were going to qualify for it. And then, I think, it was around (March 22) I actually did get a really convoluted line of questioning,” Hopkins said. “I got through, but it just said zero benefits for you, you know three weeks now.” Beginning Tuesday, April 28, help is on the way. The state will be launching a new website and app known as PUA, or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, for thousands of Californians who work for themselves. California Labor Secretary Julie Su said it’ll help people just like Hopkins cut through a bunch of red tape. “It will apply to those who are self-employed, those who are independent contractors, also to employees whose wage data is not sufficient,” Su said. “Their work history is not sufficient to qualify for unemployment insurance and to others who have exhausted their unemployment insurance benefits.” The new site allows applicants to certify on their own that they meet the criteria for emergency benefits within 24 hours. The labor secretary said the state will then be able to issue payments between 24 and 48 hours after that. So, that means an applicant’s first payment should be received by Thursday, April 30. “Once payments begin, they are retroactive,” Su said. “The program begins in terms of when you can receive money if you are unemployed due to COVID-19 as of the first week of February.” “If that really goes through and that works like that, that’s going to save millions of people across the state,” Hopkins said.

After weeks of frustration for independent contractors and gig workers trying to file for unemployment benefits, help may finally be on the way.

California will be launching a new website for self-employed workers that promises to streamline the application process and help workers get their benefits faster.

“The phone call that tells you who to talk to is a voicemail that says, ‘Oh, we’re experiencing a high volume of calls,’ and it just hangs up,” said Chris Hopkins of Natomas.

Hopkins and thousands of other self-employed or gig workers are extremely frustrated trying to apply for unemployment benefits.

Hopkins makes his living as a DJ and had been a Lyft driver for four years. He said navigating his way through the application process is stressful and confusing.

“I went on unemployment, didn’t see anything. I heard some talk we were going to qualify for it. And then, I think, it was around (March 22) I actually did get a really convoluted line of questioning,” Hopkins said. “I got through, but it just said zero benefits for you, you know three weeks now.”

Beginning Tuesday, April 28, help is on the way. The state will be launching a new website and app known as PUA, or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, for thousands of Californians who work for themselves.

California Labor Secretary Julie Su said it’ll help people just like Hopkins cut through a bunch of red tape.

“It will apply to those who are self-employed, those who are independent contractors, also to employees whose wage data is not sufficient,” Su said. “Their work history is not sufficient to qualify for unemployment insurance and to others who have exhausted their unemployment insurance benefits.”

The new site allows applicants to certify on their own that they meet the criteria for emergency benefits within 24 hours. The labor secretary said the state will then be able to issue payments between 24 and 48 hours after that.

So, that means an applicant’s first payment should be received by Thursday, April 30.

“Once payments begin, they are retroactive,” Su said. “The program begins in terms of when you can receive money if you are unemployed due to COVID-19 as of the first week of February.”

“If that really goes through and that works like that, that’s going to save millions of people across the state,” Hopkins said.



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