Sharp rise in state unemployment claims blamed on coronavirus; federal tax deadlines extended

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Jobless claims are making a dramatic spike in California amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

7 On Your Side have some tips on speeding up your unemployment claim -- plus word of a tax break announced today for all of us.

Unemployment claims in California increased 34 percent the week prior to the shelter-in-place order.

Six Bay Area counties issued their emergency orders on March 16.

In the week ending March 14, claims jumped from 43,385 to 58,208.

Those are the latest numbers just released.

Expect those numbers to jump even more when claim totals for this week are released next week.

If you haven't filed for unemployment recently, you may not know there is no longer a physical unemployment office to visit.

Filing online is your best bet. It's available practically 24/7. Limited phone service is also an option, but the wait times can be discouraging.
Here's who's eligible for benefits.

"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.

Your employer must have contributed to the unemployment insurance program. Gig workers could still be eligible through a prior job, since benefits are based on 12-18 months of your earnings.

You'll have to wait a minimum of two to three weeks for your first check.

"We are certainly having staff working overtime 7 days a week," said Levy. "We're redirecting staff wherever possible to have that unemployment claim background. We're even trying to pull people out of recent retirement and continue to hire, although new staff does take a few months to get up to speed."

Be sure to choose the payment through a debit card option to speed up your payment. Payments sent through the mail will be delayed by the time it takes to mail.

Today, we've also learned both the U.S. Treasury Department and the California state Franchise Tax Board have pushed back both the tax filing and tax payment deadline until July 15.

However if you're expecting a refund -- don't wait so you can get that refund check earlier.

That's what enrolled agent Norman Golden is doing.

"We're working on the returns for those people who are getting refunds, especially now with a lot of layoffs," said Norman Golden of the Golden gate Society of Enrolled Agents.

Bottom line, if you're owed a refund, file ASAP. If you owe, you can wait until closer to the July 15 deadline.

Go here for the latest news, information and videos about the novel coronavirus.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

Go here for the latest news, information and videos about the novel coronavirus.
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