California PUA: Self-employed, freelance and gig economy workers can apply for unemployment benefits starting today

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Economic support has finally arrived in California for the millions of self-employed, freelance and gig economy workers in California, many of whom have lost work or wages in the novel coronavirus pandemic.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order earlier this month creating the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which opens up unemployment insurance payments to more workers who don't typically qualify. The program is accepting applications online as of April 28.

PUA benefits will apply to self-employed workers, independent contractors, those whose wage history isn't long enough to qualify for unemployment, and those who have exhausted unemployment benefits.

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Labor Secretary Julie Su said the state was targeting quick processing times and payment turnarounds. Those who already have EDD debit cards should receive their payments in two days, but others will typically receive benefits in seven days.

Payments are retroactive, so those who have been waiting to receive payments for several weeks would be compensated for that time. You can receive benefits dating back to Feb. 2 or after, depending on when you began to lose income due to COVID-19.

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According to the California Employment Development Department, payment amounts are as follows for those who qualify:

  • Phase 1: $167 per week for each week you were unemployed from Feb. 2, 2020 to March 28, 2020 due to the pandemic

  • Phase 2: $167 plus $600 per week for each week you were unemployed from March 29, 2020 to July 25, 2020 due to the pandemic. (The extra $600 per week comes from the federal CARES Act, which is currently only in effect through July.)

  • Phase 3: $167 per week for each week you are unemployed from July 26, 2020 to Dec. 26, 2020.

You have to have the legal right to work in California to qualify. Undocumented workers will have access to a different $5 million relief fund, which Gov. Newsom says is set to launch in early May.

There is a 39-week cap on PUA benefits.

More information on the PUA program can be found on the EDD website.

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