Coronavirus impact: South Bay mom navigates unemployment, unsure of financial future

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Thousands of Bay Area residents are out of work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The California Employment Development Department says it's seen a spike in unemployment claims this month. As the department attempts to keep up, some requirements have been waived to help those who need it most. There's also the possibility of benefits for independent contractors who wouldn't normally qualify.

San Jose mom Tamera Corbella is spending even more time with her daughter Marley since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Corbella is a catering director for a French restaurant, but she's been out of work since the start of last week.

"I've definitely had a few moments where I kind of freaked out and felt overwhelmed by the situation," said Corbella.

Here's how to file for unemployment

For the first time in her nearly 20 year career, Corbella applied for unemployment insurance through the California Employment Development Department.

If approved, the maximum benefit an applicant can receive is $450 per week.

Want to see unemployment filing numbers in a larger window? Click here

"It really will only maybe take care of some supplementary bills but it wouldn't come close to covering rent," said Corbella.

Corbella is one of thousands of Californians who applied for unemployment insurance benefits this month, according to California EDD Spokesperson Loree Levy.

"Well you know these are unprecedented times and what we're seeing certainly we've never really seen or witnessed before," said Levy.
The number of Californians applying for unemployment insurance increased by 34% from the first week in March to the second week in March, outpacing the national increase during that same time by nearly 10%.

"We're definitely going to be seeing those numbers continue to climb very quickly upward," said Levy.

Californians also filed 42% more claims the second week in March than the same time last year.

It typically takes EDD three weeks to process a claim and determine eligibility. To keep up with the onslaught of new applications, the department is redirecting staff, bringing back recent retirees and looking to other agencies for help.

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"It really is kind of an all hands on deck scenario," said Levy.

The department is also waiting to receive word from the federal government on whether Disaster Unemployment Assistance or DUA as it's called will become available.
"That's where eligibility for unemployment expands and that would cover the self-employed," said Levy.

Recent legislation in response to COVID-19 waives the one-week waiting period before a worker is eligible for unemployment insurance and loosens work search requirements since many employees may go back to their former employers once businesses reopen.

Something Corbella is hoping to do.

While she waits to hear about her unemployment insurance claim, she says she fears the financial implications of COVID-19 more than she fears getting sick.

"How do you navigate the financial means when there's no way to draw in income and you're relying on EDD and you know savings," said Corbella.

The California EDD has two tips for getting your unemployment insurance benefits faster, apply online and choose the EDD debit card as your payment option rather than a check.

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