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California EDD Will Require Proof of Job Search To Collect Benefits Beginning In July

SACRAMENTO (CBS SF/AP) — California will stop giving unemployment benefits to people who are not actively applying for jobs, Gov. Gavin Newsom's administration has announced.

Federal law requires people who are out of work to be actively looking for jobs to be eligible for unemployment benefits. But the federal government let states waive that requirement during the pandemic because so many businesses were ordered to close.

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California has waived its work-search rule since March 2020. But Thursday, the Employment Development Department said it would resume the requirement July 11.

"California offers many resources to help people to find safe and suitable careers and training opportunities that keep the economy moving," agency director Rita Saenz said.

On Friday, state officials said there are new jobs for those looking for employment as California rebounds from the pandemic.

The state added 104,500 jobs in May – the fourth consecutive month of six-figure job gains, following the 102,000 jobs created in April, 132,400 jobs created in March and 156,100 jobs created in February:

"California continues to lead the nation's economic recovery, adding 104,500 jobs in May, marking the fourth month in a row of six-figure job creation," Newsom said in a statement. "Our health-centric approach has saved lives, resulting in one of the lowest case rates and the most vaccinations in the country – now we're leading the nation in health and economic outcomes. We've regained more than half the jobs we lost over the past year, but there's still a long way to go – that's why we're making historic investments in small business tax cuts and grants, tax rebates for two-thirds of California families and rent relief for those hardest hit by the pandemic."

Since the pandemic began, California — the nation's most populous state with nearly 40 million people — has processed more than 20 million unemployment claims and paid out more than $128 billion in benefits.

Normally, the most money someone can get from unemployment benefits in California is $450 per week. But Congress has added an additional $300 per week on top of that because of the pandemic. That extra money won't expire until September.

But as coronavirus cases have fallen while more people are getting vaccinated, employers have said they are having a hard time finding people to work. In response, most states have already required people to look for work in order to be eligible for unemployment benefits. And 25 states have stopped paying the extra $300 per week in benefits in an attempt to prod people back into the workforce.

Newsom, who will likely face a recall election later this year, has resisted most of those changes. Earlier this month, Newsom said other states' decision to end the extra $300 weekly benefit was based on "politics, not economics."

This week, Newsom lifted most coronavirus restrictions on businesses, heralding it as the state's grand reopening. But data from the U.S. Department of Labor show around 2 million people are still receiving unemployment benefits in California.

Anecdotally, many employers have said they are having trouble finding workers.

"It's a nightmare right now," said Randy Musterer, who has 20 job openings right now at his two Sushi Confidential shops in San Jose and Campbell.

Musterer told KPIX 5 that he can't fill them, even with incentives like offering cash bonuses to workers who refer their friends.

"The economy is opening up, all of our customers as you see here today want to come out and enjoy dining again indoors. We can't a full operation right now because it's very difficult to find enough staff," Musterer said.

California's 45 workforce development boards, which aim to get people placed in jobs, say fewer people have been coming to them seeking work, according to Michael Bernick, research director for the California Workforce Association.

"Workers are not coming back to their job fairs in any significant numbers," he said.

In an interview with KPIX 5,Bernick said one big part of the old requirement is missing.

"In the past you were required to actually list employers. You're not required to do so now. You don't need to actually show proof of interviews, or proof of applications. I've described it as a soft requirement," said Bernick, who was once the head of the EDD.

Bernick, who calls the new rule more of a nudge than a crackdown, hopes the positive messaging will work.

© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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