Advice on California Unemployment
April 23, 2020 9:52 AM   Subscribe

Keep current unemployment claim open or file new?

If my UI claim got tied up in red tape, is it ever advisable to just open a new one? For instance, if they miscalculated my claim but are unreachable by phone? Or if my status changes from "reduced hours due to Covid 19" to "fully laid off due to Covid 19?"

The long version:

My company, where I've worked full-time since 2017, reclassified me from contractor to W4 employee shortly before the crises. Then they furloughed me due to Covid-19.

I filed for unemployment as an employee, not a contractor (since that was the truth). I was approved for benefits, but they seem to based my award on earnings from my side hustle (part-time lecturer), and my award was pitifully small.

I never got an interview. I can't reach anyone on the phone. They don't respond to my emails through their portal. The website says they made a payment back on the 16th, but I haven't received a check or debit card and don't know which to expect.

My company's HR rep tells me to be patient; that I qualify for full benefits under CARES act but that the wheels move slow.

Does anyone have any advice? Should I just do what she says and sit tight?
posted by ducky l'orange to Law & Government (3 answers total)
There have been extensive changes to Unemployment Insurance, and the National Employment Law Project offers an overview here: UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE PROVISIONS IN THE CORONAVIRUS AID, RELIEF, AND ECONOMIC SECURITY (CARES) ACT and more information and resources here: COVID-19 RESOURCES FOR UNEMPLOYED AND FRONTLINE WORKERS.

I have heard generally that one of the changes is that the date of separation, not the date of filing, is now the key date because of the overwhelmed state systems, BUT this needs to be confirmed with your state and regardless of that issue, it sounds like you need legal advice tailored to the laws and regulations that apply to your state. You can seek free legal assistance in your state from an organization like Legal Aid at Work in California, which offers virtual clinics and helplines, and fact sheets. In addition, Legal Services of Northern California is offering information and possible legal assistance with Unemployment Insurance claims. Central California Legal Services also offers information and possible legal assistance at their Legal Advice Line, and there is additional information available at also offers a Legal Directory to search for additional legal services organizations that may be available to offer free legal advice and assistance.

I encourage you to be proactive about determining your eligibility for benefits and untangling the red tape, and in the meantime, you may also want to check if you are eligible for CalFresh, and other support resources listed at the end of this article: How to File for Unemployment in California During the Coronavirus Pandemic (KQED, Apr. 11, 2020).
posted by katra at 11:25 AM on April 23, 2020

I'm not sure what you mean by keep current claim open or file new? If you are currently receiving unemployment there is no reason to file again.

Were you an independent contractor (not working through an agency)? Benefits are based on prior quarters and if you changed from independent contractor just recently, you will not have earned sufficient unemployment benefits.

Going forward, you should qualify for the additional $600 covid money along with the pitifully small (sorry) amount from your side hustle. It doesn't sound like you worked long enough full time to get the max CA benefit of $450/per week (or whatever the max is for your earnings).

You should have received a Notice of Unemployment Insurance Claim Filed that lists the employer you provided when you filed. This form is accompanied by the Notice of Unemployment Insurance Award, it provides the claim beginning and end date, weekly benefit amount, total wages earned, highest quarter earnings and it also shows quarter by quarter what you earned.

Did you not receive these forms?
posted by shoesietart at 11:28 AM on April 23, 2020

As noted by the National Employment Law Project, one of the many expansions to UI include that "Those eligible for PUA include self-employed workers, including independent contractors, freelancers, workers seeking part-time work, and workers who do not have a long-enough work history to qualify for state UI benefits. [...] Workers will be eligible for retroactive benefits and can access benefits for a maximum of 39 weeks, including any weeks for which the person received regular UI." However, this is not legal advice that applies to your specific situation with regard to what benefits you may or may not be eligible for, and I'm adding this general information here to emphasize the need to seek legal advice that incorporates the new changes and expansion of benefits to determine how they apply to your specific situation.
posted by katra at 11:44 AM on April 23, 2020

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