As California employers continue their efforts to weather this difficult and economically uncertain time, the state is also taking steps to assist California workers affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Governor Gavin Newsom recently announced several new initiatives to support California workers who have been affected by COVID-19.

Expansion of Call Center Hours at the Employment Development Department to Process Unemployment Insurance Claims

Pursuant to Executive Order N-50-20, California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) is launching a new call center on Monday, April 20, 2020, that will operate seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. This is in response to the Governor’s order that the agency “take necessary action to ensure staffing sufficient to process unemployment insurance benefits on a timely basis to ensure eligible individuals receive payments efficiently.” The Unemployment Insurance Branch has added staff and will now have 1,340 employees, including 740 EDD employees and 600 employees from across state government, available to assist eligible individuals with questions about filing and/or their claims.

With record numbers of unemployment claims being filed as a result of COVID-19, added staff and call center hours may have a significant impact on those workers who are seeking unemployment benefits due to job loss or reduction of hours.

The Governor also directed the EDD to establish an efficient electronic means of expediting access to the EDD’s Work Share program to avert potential layoffs.

Assistance for Individuals Applying for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

Starting on April 28, 2020, the EDD will also have a one-stop-shop for individuals applying for unemployment insurance and the new federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.

The PUA program will provide federally funded benefits in addition to the traditional state Unemployment Insurance program for individuals out of work or partially unemployed due to COVID-19, including those who are self-employed, individuals who may lack sufficient work history, gig workers and independent contractors. Importantly, PUA benefits will be issued within 24-48 hours, rather than the typical 21 days ​for regular unemployment insurance claims.

Disaster Relief Assistance

The Governor also announced the creation of a $75 million Disaster Relief Fund that will provide support to undocumented Californians affected by COVID-19, including those who are ineligible for unemployment insurance and other benefits. The assistance is the result of a partnership between the State and philanthropic partners, who have committed to raising an additional $50 million in funds. In passing the Order, Governor Newsom emphasized that California is the most diverse state in the nation and stated that it will support all Californians during this crisis.

Jackson Lewis is continually monitoring COVID-19 developments at the state and local level. Jackson Lewis has a dedicated team tracking and responding to the developing issues facing employers in this difficult time. If you need guidance in handling the complicated issues pertaining to COVID-19, contact a Jackson Lewis attorney to discuss.