California applies for Lost Wages Assistance program
Sacramento – After five months of the COVID-19 pandemic and the historic demand for unemployment benefits it has created, impacted workers have received a total of $67 billion in benefits to help support their families as well as businesses in their community. The California Employment Development Department (EDD) reports processing a total of 10.6 million claims for benefits over that time between the regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) program, extensions, and separate Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. That’s almost triple the number of claims processed in the highest year of the Great Recession (3.8 million claims in 2010).
Status of federal stimulus payment for unemployment benefits
California submitted an application this week to participate in the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program. If approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), it would provide a supplemental payment of $300 per week for a limited period of time for claimants who are currently eligible to receive at least $100 per week in benefits, and who have provided a self-certification that they are unemployed or partially unemployed due to disruptions caused by COVID-19. Updates will be provided when they become available.
In the meantime, the prior $600 stimulus payment is still available to claimants with any eligible weeks of benefits between March 29 and July 25, even if those payments are processed at a later date. Otherwise, weekly benefit payments without the stimulus can continue to be made on all regular UI, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) or FED-ED extensions, or PUA claims in which individuals meet bi-weekly eligibility requirements.
Customer service updates
The EDD continues to enhance all customer service channels to ensure impacted workers receive updates on their claims and get the assistance they need.
- Text messages – The EDD has sent 10.6 million text messages to more than 3.6 million people since initiating text alerts in May, which inform claimants about key developments on their unemployment claims. Messages include notifying claimants when their claim is being processed as well as when their first payment has been issued. Other texts alert claimants when they will need to provide additional documentation to verify their identity, as well as when those documents have been processed.
- Phone lines – The EDD is increasing the number of call center agents through a mass hiring and training effort, with a goal of having at least 3,500 agents staffing a consolidated call center operation.
Extending benefits when claimants run out
If individuals run out of their up-to-26 weeks of regular UI available benefits and they are still out of work, there are two extensions available. The EDD has the following guidance:
The EDD will automatically file the extension for claimants, except if they have exhausted their regular UI benefit year which is the 12-month period from the start of their claim. In that case, the claimant must re-apply for a new regular UI claim first.
The EDD will automatically file that extension for those who run out of a PEUC and meet eligibility requirements. If they aren’t eligible, the EDD will automatically file or re-open a PUA claim for the individual and they’ll need to attest to a pandemic reason for their unemployment.
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