SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — We've been getting hundreds of emails and questions on social media from viewers who are struggling to file for unemployment.
CBS13 Investigative Reporter Julie Watts has been working from home to get the answers over the past couple of weeks and is answering some of the most frequently asked questions.
From EDD's state unemployment to the $600 Federal Stimulus Unemployment, to the new Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, the guidance is changing by the day. The most common question we get is: "When will I get my money?"
When will I get my money?
The EDD says it normally takes three weeks to get your first check. We're also hearing that some who already had an EDD debit card from past unemployment or maternity leave are seeing the money in their accounts in less than two weeks.
However, the vast majority of those who filed after March 15 are still waiting for their first payment.
Those first pandemic filers should start to see their EDD debit cards and checks arrive the April 6th.
In general, you should expect a minimum of a three-week wait to get your first unemployment payment after filing. It could take closer to five weeks, based on what we're hearing, if the EDD has to ask follow-up questions due to mistakes, self-employment or part-time work, it could take longer to process.
I applied for state unemployment, how do I get the extra $600 federal unemployment?
You should get it automatically, according to the EDD.
Starting Sunday, April 12, Californians who have already qualified for state unemployment will begin automatically getting the extra $600 a week in CARES ACT Federal Unemployment on top of their current EDD unemployment check.
EDD payments are made every two weeks. The agency provides the following example:
"For someone receiving the most recent average Unemployment Insurance payment of $340 a week, a usual biweekly payment would equal $680. With the extra payment, that biweekly payment would increase to $1,880."
Is there back pay for the federal money?
Yes. If you qualified for unemployment prior to April 4, you will get two weeks of the retroactive federal payments. You should get $600 for each of the weeks ending April 4 and April 11.
I'm self-employed should I apply for unemployment?
The answer is yes. Some people who are self-employed are getting approved for benefits based on past jobs, though the approval process appears to be taking longer.
Pro Tip: You must answer "yes" to the question that asks if you are ready and willing to work (even if your industry is shut down) in order to qualify.
What about Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for Californians who are self-employed or others who don't qualify for state unemployment?
The short answer is: we don't know yet.
The CARES Act authorizes unemployment payments for people who don't otherwise qualify for state unemployment - including people who are self-employed and who have already used up their maximum 26 weeks of state unemployment.
However, the EDD is supposed to distribute that money to Californians, not the feds, and the agency has not yet implemented California's new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.
It should, at some point, provide up to 39 weeks of state benefits for those who don't otherwise qualify, along with the federal benefits of $600 a week for those unemployed March 29-July 31, 2020.
However, the EDD says it will need time to develop the necessary system programming and forms and has provided no timeline.
4/28 UPDATE: The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program opened Tuesday, 4/28.
How many people are actually getting the money they are entitled to?
The EDD says it processed 1,983,775 of claims since the week ending March 21. That was the week the Governor's stay-at-home order was issued. However, it is unclear how many of those people are actually receiving payments.
The EDD told CBS13 that those "processed claims" include claims that have been denied and claims that the EDD is still working on but "needs more information to process it, and is following up with the appropriate parties to retrieve said information."
CBS13 has asked the EDD to identify, of the "claims processed" since the week ending March 21:
- How many claimants have already received payment?
- How many claims were approved?
- How many claims were denied?
- How many claims are still in process (EDD waiting for additional information)
The agency says it does not track that level of detail, however the CA Labor Department is looking into it for us.
What about the EDD errors we've been hearing about?
It is important to note that CBS13 is hearing from many people who believe they are being denied in error, but cannot get through to the EDD on their limited phone line which is only manned for four hours a day.
Several people have reported that the EDD sent them a letter specifying a date and time for a scheduled phone interview. The letter states that the EDD will call them.
In some cases, the number printed on their letter was wrong. In other cases, when their phone rang at the scheduled time, the call was immediately disconnected and no one from the EDD called back.
Some viewers have told CBS13 that they received a denial letter, but the social security numbers on the letter was not theirs. In fact, they say it was not even close to their number which they say, indicates to them, that it was not a typo, but a printing error.
Others tell us that their denial letter said they have $0 qualifying income over the past 4 quarters, even though they did have traditional jobs and their wadges should have qualified.
What if I think I was denied in error?
The EDD emailed CBS13 the following response when we asked them about the issues that some of our viewers are facing:
"On our end, since we've been able to adjust some of the usual eligibility requirements due to these unique circumstances, we should still be able to process the claim through. It's possible that this person filed their claim before the EDD received authority to adjust eligibility requirements starting around March 20 due to the unique situation facing so many workers and their employers during this pandemic.
Also, if someone was disqualified for a week of benefits, that does not render them disqualified indefinitely. The requirement to look for work is determined on a week-by-week basis when certifying for benefits. Also, if the individual thinks they should be eligible for a week or weeks of benefits when they didn't look for work, the individual should submit an appeal by mailing in the form that was sent with their disqualification or by writing a letter of appeal and returning it to the address on the disqualification notice. In the appeal, the individual should explain their circumstances and the reason they did not look for work. This will allow the EDD to reconsider the initial disqualification and potentially determine them eligible for benefits. An appeal should be submitted within 30 days of the mailed disqualification notice."
However, each of the viewers who reported apparent EDD errors to CBS13 say that they did not receive an appeal letter and, following the denial, their online portal would not allow them to re-apply or appeal.
What if I can't get through to the EDD?
Yolo County tweeted this number for their Health and Human Services. We shared it with some CBS13 viewers and several people, outside of Yolo County, tell us they have been able to get help by calling this number when they can't get through to the EDD.
I got my check, am I done?
No. Remember, once you qualify and you get your first check, your work is not done. You have to log on every two weeks to re-certify that you are still eligible for any unemployment benefits.
(This story was originally published on April 3 and will be periodically updated with new information)
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