SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A brand new lockdown brings with it a fresh round of workers having their hours cut, or being furloughed or laid off from their jobs. As the newly-unemployed begin to turn to an already beleaguered Employment Development Department (EDD) for benefits to help them through these tough times, ABC7's 7 On Your Side has these tips for filing an unemployment claim and navigating the EDD's processes.
7 On Your Side has covered dozens of stories on the EDD and its rocky rollout of unemployment benefits during the novel coronavirus pandemic. The EDD has been criticized for its outdated system and inability to handle the tidal wave of applications at the beginning of the shutdown, as well as for rampant fraud that has cost the state an estimated $1 billion so far. Bank of America, who partnered with the California EDD to issue debit cards onto which benefits are automatically loaded, is also under fire for the lack of security on their cards and for "clawing back" monies given to replace losses after the cardholder fell victim to fraud.
With this in mind, it's even more important to file a claim quickly and accurately, and to take precautions while collecting your benefits.
Do I qualify for unemployment?
"If you lost your job or your hours are reduced through no fault of your own, and that's certainly happening with a lot of people in this particular situation, you could be eligible for benefits," said Loree Levy, spokesperson for the Employment Development Department.
Regular full-time employees (typically those who file a W2) are eligible for regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits, if their employer has paid into the unemployment system. The amount of benefit is determined by the worker's previous pay. However, there have been two rounds of additional money granted to unemployed workers: first an additional $600 per week from the federal government (called "pandemic additional compensation") granted to claims made between March 29 and July 25, 2020 by the CARES Act, then an additional $300 per week from the federal government (called "Lost Wages Assistance") granted to claims made between July 26 and September 5, 2020 by a presidential memorandum. Currently, Congress is negotiating another aid package that some hope will extend these benefits.
File a UI claim with EDD here.
Workers who are freelance, self-employed, or do gig work are not eligible for regular UI, but are eligible for CARES Act-provided "Pandemic Unemployment Assistance" (PUA). This grants them up to 46 weeks of unemployment payments between February 2 and December 26, 2020.
Those seeking to make a PUA claim should use the regular UI application form here.
The EDD has a step-by-step guide to filing an unemployment claim here.
What do I need to apply?
According to the EDD's step-by-step guide, have these documents handy when filling out your application.
EDD says I have to verify my identification. Why and how do I do that?
One of the biggest holdups in processing EDD claims is verifying your identity, and with fraud rampant, it's even more important to follow their verification process exactly.
Workers whose identities the EDD was unable to verify upon filing their initial claim are notified by mail and must send the EDD additional documentation. This includes one photo I.D. and at least one other identity document. See the full list of acceptable documents here.
The fastest way to send your documents to the EDD is to register for an online account. From there, you'll see a link to "Upload Documents." The EDD has a video on how to upload documents using their "ID.me" online system here.
Documents must be sent within 10 days of the mailing date of the EDD's notification letter.
What else should I look out for in order to make sure my claim gets processed quickly?
The most common hold-ups are also the simplest. When filling out your UI claim, be sure to double-check your spelling, use your legal working name, and make sure your date of birth and Social Security numbers are correct.
Do I have to wait to file an unemployment claim?
No. The traditional waiting period has been waived by the EDD. If you have experienced work loss, you should file your claim right away.
How do I protect myself from fraud?
Watch your mail. Some thieves have stolen people's mail in order to get their personal information -- and especially their EDD information. The EDD was criticized by the State Auditor for printing Social Security numbers on their correspondence, so it's extra-important to store these documents in a secure place.
Look out for scams. Scammers have attempted to gather personal identifying information in order to register UI claims in the victim's name or to take over their UI account. Be wary of unsolicited emails, texts, or phone calls claiming to be from the EDD. Fraudsters have also gotten creative, with some reporting that criminals set up phony job interviews over the phone or video chat in order to trick applicants into giving them their information. Whenever you can, verify the identity of whoever has contacted you.
Keep a close eye on your card and your Bank of America account. The Bank of America EDD debit card is not secured with a chip, leaving it vulnerable to skimming and cloning. Be cautious of using your card at known skimmer hotspots, such as gas pump registers and ATMs. Better yet, arrange to transfer your funds to a more secure account, such as your regular bank account.
As always, if you find yourself stuck with the EDD, get in contact with the 7 On Your Side team -- we'll help you out!
Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.
Have a question for Michael and the 7 On Your Side team? Fill out the form HERE!
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