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As of June, the department is in the process of hiring over 4,800 new staff to help with processing claims, and has paid over $22 billion in benefits within the last three months.
Loree Levy with California's Employment Development Department revealed they've seen "historic demand."
In an interview with ABC7 News at 3 p.m., Levy answered viewers' questions on unemployment benefits, debit cards, eligibility and PUA assistance. Here's what they asked:
Do I get to keep my unemployment benefits if I go back to work on a part-time basis?
As California begins to reopen, some employees may return to work for a short time, but what happens if you get laid off or become unemployed again?
Levy said you can continue to certify the number of hours you work each week and some weeks, you may not receive unemployment benefits because you are working full time.
But if your hours are reduced or you stop working again, you can certify during those weeks and receive payment up to the 26 weeks you are eligible.
Levy said many may not be able to go back to working 40 hours or full time, so if you are on the unemployment insurance program, you need to report your income on a bi-weekly certification form.
"For most people, especially on a regular unemployment insurance program, what you do is you report those earnings in the week in which you earned them, not necessarily when you got paid, but when you earn them. And then we do have to deduct most of that from your unemployment benefits. As an example, if you earned $100 in one week, we will go ahead and say $25 of it doesn't count. The other $75 will be deducted from your unemployment benefits. So if you're scheduled to get say a $450 payment for that week, you'd get $375. Instead, a little different for a self employed individual, for example, on a PDU a claim, a pandemic unemployment assistance claim. And that is they report to us how much they earn at the time they get that money, not necessarily when they earned it. So just a little difference there."
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How long does it take before I get my benefits after I've been approved?
Levy says the department has been able to make many new adjustments with the new UI Online system so they've been able to keep up with the volume of claims and the average time it takes is three weeks.
"That means about three weeks weeks from the time you apply, we should be able to get you that first benefit payment right around in that timeframe depending upon when you get your debit card, etc.," Levy says.
Pandemic or not, it will take longer if they have to identify your identity or if the wages reported do not match the wages reported by an employer, Levy says.
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How does the Work Sharing program work?
The CA EDD website says that employers can apply for the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Work Sharing program as a temporary alternative to layoffs if the business's production or services have been reduced.
Levy says the program application process is all online now and it's a "layoff prevention" alternative.
"It's all online now, which is a really good thing for employers, they propose a plan and they say, all my employees, I don't want to let them go, I'm just going to reduce their hours by a small amount and then help replace some of those earnings they would have had with some unemployment benefits. And so the all the employees basically fill out a continued claim a certification form every two weeks to get that kind of supplemental unemployment benefits to help on their income," Levy says.
If you're not working for over a year, can you file for unemployment?
Levy says unemployment is a wage replacement program and you had to be working and impacted by the pandemic in order to collect benefits.
"What wages are you missing is kind of what we're being asked again, it's an insurance program," Levy says. "So somebody has to contribute it on your behalf in order to be eligible for benefits. For most of us, that's our employer, some others will go ahead and contribute and then make an Employment Assistance Program. The federal government is helping us out with those benefitss so we do look at your last 18 months of work history that's required on your application. And if you're not sure whether you're eligible, I would always encourage you to apply."
What is PEUC (Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation)?
"Usually, you can only collect up to 26 weeks of regular state Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits within a 12-month benefit year. Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) provides an additional 13 weeks of payments if you've used all of your available UI benefits," the CA EDD site says.
"If you exhaust those benefits, then and what we can do right now is offer you a 13-week federal extension. So we've just started filing those in the last couple of weeks, we automatically do those for somebody who is within their current benefit year and have exhausted benefits. You should get something from us not only in the mail, but also on your UI Online account. So look for that, and then you have weeks to certify for so I don't think at this point anybody has run through that 13-week extension and again, we'll continue to keep people updated as we move along on anything else comes out from the federal government."
Levy encourages Californians to monitor the EDD's website for the latest updates.
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Where's my EDD debit card?
Some may be receiving unemployment payments but have not received their debit card in the mail.
Levy said EDD cards are good for up to three years. So if you've received benefits in the last three years, your debit card is still valid during the pandemic.
"When do you come into a new claim, what'll happen is when you're approved for benefits, it's posted to that EDD debit card if it's still good within that three year period," she said.
If your card is missing, the EDD has created a tool through Bank of America to replace your card.
Where can we apply for a job with the State of California Employment Development Department?
The department is hiring and Levy reccommends people to visit the career site here.
Levy says there's a list of different jobs ranging from analyst to office technicas and even accountants.
RELATED: California PUA: Self-employed, freelance and gig economy workers can apply for unemployment benefits now
How is CA EDD using the texting program?
The department released a new texting program to alert people the status of their claims. Levy says within the last week over 2 million messages were sent to help notify people the process of submitting their claims.
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