The portal to apply for California’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program will go live on Tuesday, April 28, to the relief of thousands of self-employed, contract, and gig-economy workers who have become unable to work during the crisis. Since these workers are not classified as employees, many have historically been left without access to unemployment benefits.
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program is intended to provide up to 39 weeks of funds to eligible applicants. Funds will be available retroactively for individuals who lost work due to the pandemic as early as February 2; the program is currently planned to last through December 26.
While the bulk of applications are expected to come from the self-employed, the program also allows for applications from individuals who were payroll workers at a company but did not report enough wages over the last 18 months to establish a standard unemployment claim, and those who have already exhausted the benefits they qualified for under standard unemployment. In all cases, the worker will have to demonstrate that their loss of income is a result of the pandemic.
Some workers have reported that they find it hard to know if their job qualifies them as a contractor or employee, a matter which may be complicated by inconsistent adoption of the new rules set forth in AB5.
One performer who spoke to the San Francisco Chronicle, Daniel Savio, worked four different part-time jobs in the past year, some that paid him as an employee, others that still classified him as a freelancer. He ended up with both W-2 and 1099 income. “I was really unclear on where I fall and exactly how I should apply,” Savio told the paper.
Workers like Savio, who aren’t sure about their status, and those who think they were misclassified as contractors and should be eligible for the unemployment benefits offered to employees, are encouraged to apply through the state’s UI Online site, which will ask questions designed to sort the claim to the appropriate program.