Congressman Scott Peters

Representing the 52nd District of California

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Workers and COVID-19

FOR WORKERS:

BENEFITS:

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT PROGRAMS AVAILABLE?

There are different benefit programs available to you depending on what situations are most applicable to your current circumstance. These include Disability Benefits or Paid Family Leave Benefits, and Unemployment Insurance Benefits. You can find California’s different options for filing for any coronavirus-related unemployment, leave, or disability benefits HERE.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act also created a new temporary federal program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). In general, PUA provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to individuals not eligible for regular unemployment compensation or extended benefits, including those who have exhausted all rights to such benefits. Individuals covered under PUA include the self-employed (e.g. independent contractors, gig economy workers, and workers for certain religious entities), those seeking part-time employment, individuals lacking sufficient work history, and those who otherwise do not qualify for regular unemployment compensation or extended benefits.

DISABILITY BENEFITS:

If you are unable to work due to being sick with coronavirus or are in quarantine due to being exposed to COVID-19 and you have the necessary supporting medical documentation, such as medical certification signed by a physician or practitioner, you may file a Disability Insurance (DI) claim. This may provide short-term benefit payments to eligible workers; most Californian workers are covered by DI through deductions from their paychecks (check for "CASDI" on your paystubs).

If you are quarantined and it’s been certified by a medical professional, you can qualify for disability benefits.

PAID FAMILY LEAVE BENEFITS:

If you are unable to work because you have to take care of a family member that is sick or quarantined with COVID-19 and have proper medical documentation, then you may be eligible for Paid Family Leave. You may also file if your child’s school has closed or if your childcare provider is unavailable due to COVID-19. You can submit your claim with the supporting medical documentation online, HEREBenefit amounts are approximately 60-70% of wages depending on income, and range from $50-$1,300 a week.

If you find you are not eligible for Disability of Paid Family Leave, you may still be eligible for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits.

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE (UI) BENEFITS:

You are encouraged to apply for UI benefits if you are subject to quarantine, are not ill, and aren't eligible for other insurance claims, as well as if your hours have been reduced due to the quarantine, if you are let go by your employer during the quarantine, or if you have been subject to quarantine required by a medical health officer.

If you are temporarily out of work and plan to return to the same employer, you do not need to meet the usual requirement of looking for work while you are collecting UI benefits.

If you are self-employed or an independent contractor and are unable to work for the reasons given above, you may be eligible for UI benefits. You may be covered by contributions made through past employment or if you voluntarily paid into the state’s optional Disability Insurance Elective Coverage (DIEC) program. If you’re classified as an independent contractor, you can still apply for unemployment benefits if you feel you may have been misclassified, or if you may have benefits from other jobs you’ve held in the last 5-18 months.

If your employer reduces your hours or shuts down operations due to impacts of the coronavirus, you may file a UI claim.

Eligible individuals can receive benefits that range from $40-$450 per week. Depending on your maximum award for your UI claim and your weekly benefit amounts paid, the number of weeks you can potentially receive benefit payments ranges from 13 to 26 weeks if you are paid at your full weekly benefit amount for each of those weeks. Use the UI calculator to help estimate your potential weekly benefit amount.

The Governor's Executive Order waives the one-week unpaid waiting period, so you can collect all benefits for the first week you are out of work, as long as you have been found to be eligible.

Any of these provisions may be updated. Please check back with EDD for updates.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA):

If you qualify for regular UI, do not file a PUA claim at this time. If you filed for UI and received a notice that you have $0 in benefits available, visit PUA FAQs for what to do next.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is one of the federal CARES Act provisions that helps unemployed Californians who are not usually eligible for regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits. This includes business owners, self-employed workers, independent contractors, and those with a limited work history who are out of business or have significantly reduced their services as a direct result of the pandemic.

This program includes up to 39 weeks of benefits from February 2, 2020, through December 26, 2020, depending on when you were directly affected by COVID-19. If approved, the start date of your claim will be the Sunday of the week you became unemployed due to COVID-19. Benefits will be back paid based on your last day of work, no matter when you filed your claim. 

If you already filed a PUA claim because you used all the benefits on your UI claim, we will stop your PUA claim as of March 29 and will transfer you automatically to a Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation claim.

The fastest way to apply for benefits is through UI OnlineSM, just as you would for regular UI benefits. You can also apply for PUA by phone, mail, or fax. For more information on how to file a claim, refer to the Unemployment Benefits Guide provided by the California EDD.

To make benefits available as quickly as possible, payments will be issued in phases. If you qualify for PUA, these are the minimum payments based on your claim’s start date:

Phase 1: February 2 to March 28, 2020 - $167 per week for each week you were unemployed due to COVID-19.

Phase 2: March 29 to July 25, 2020 - $167 plus $600 per week for each week you are unemployed due to COVID-19.

Phase 3: July 26 to December 26, 2020 - $167 per week, for each week that you are unemployed due to COVID-19.

Based on your claim date, you can get PUA benefits for up to a total of 39 weeks (minus any regular UI benefits you received).

PAID LEAVE:

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act established new federal emergency paid sick and family leave provisions.

What businesses are excluded from the emergency sick and family leave program?

  • Businesses with over 500 employees (in total, not by location) are not required to provide leave, nor will they be eligible for reimbursement if they voluntarily provide leave.

  • DOL will issue regulations for 1) excluding certain health care providers and emergency responders, and 2) exempting small businesses with fewer than 50 employees who can demonstrate that providing leave will jeopardize the business. This guidance has not been issued yet as to how businesses can claim this exemption.

What businesses are required to provide emergency sick and family leave program?

  • Companies with fewer than 500 employees company-wide, within the US.

  • Local, state, and federal government employees.

  • Employees who work under a multiemployer collective agreement and whose employers pay into a multiemployer plan.

Who can claim these benefits?

  • Current employees of eligible companies.

  • Employees who were laid off after March 1, 2020, if the employee worked at least 30 of the last 60 calendar days prior to layoff, and the employee is rehired by the employer.

  • Local, state, and federal government employees.

  • Employees who work under a multiemployer collective agreement and whose employers pay into a multiemployer plan.

In what scenarios can employees use the emergency sick and family leave program?

For required sick leave:

  • Employee is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19.

  • Employee has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.

  • Employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.

  • Employee is caring for an individual who is subject to an isolation or quarantine order or has been asked to self-quarantine by a health care provider.

  • Employee is caring for their child if the school has been closed, or the childcare provider of the son or daughter is unavailable, due to COVID-19 precautions.

  • Employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition.

For expanded family leave:

  • Employees who are not working because the employee is caring for their child because 1) the school is closed, or 2) child care provider is unavailable due to a public health emergency.

What’s the benefit and duration of the paid sick leave program?

  • Employers are required to provide 80 full hours (10 work days/2 work weeks) of fully paid sick leave, up to $511 per day. This time can be used for self-quarantine, seeking medical care, or receiving treatment for COVID-19.

  • Part-time employees receive fully paid time off for the equivalent number of hours they would work in a typical two-week period (up to $551 per day). This time can be used for self-quarantine, seeking medical care, or receiving treatment for COVID-19.

What’s the benefit and duration of the paid family leave program?

  • Eligible full-time employees are entitled to two weeks (80 hours) paid time off at two-thirds of their regular pay (up to $200 per day) to care for a family member or to care for a child whose school has closed, or if their child care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19.

  •  Eligible part-time employees are also entitled to the typical number of hours that they work in

a typical two-week period at two-thirds of their typical pay (up to $200 per day) to care for a child whose school has closed, or if their child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19.

What is the time frame for this emergency program?

  • All employees can begin two weeks of paid sick leave starting April 1, including full, part time, and “joint employees”.

  • This emergency leave program expires at the end of 2020.

Who pays for the emergency paid sick and family leave?

  • Employers initially front the cost of emergency paid sick leave.

  • The federal government will fully reimburse costs of the sick and paid leave within three months via tax credits. The credit is refundable if it exceeds the amount the employer owes in payroll tax.

    • The reimbursement will cover both the wages paid and the employer’s contribution to employee health insurance premiums during the period of leave.

    • Employers will be reimbursed through a refundable tax credit that counts against employers’ payroll tax, which all employers pay regardless of non-profit/for-profit status.

    • Employers will submit emergency paid sick leave expenses as part of their estimated quarterly tax payments. If employer’s costs more than offset their tax liability, they will get a refund from the IRS.

What if I’m self-employed?

  • Eligible self-employed individuals are eligible for a refundable credit against income tax for qualified leave amounts.

Employer resources

For businesses with impacted workers:

If you are a business owner or HR representative for an employer considering work stoppages, layoffs or furloughs, the San Diego Workforce Partnership encourages you to submit layoff notices online or call their hotline at (619) 228-2982 for direct support. They aim to get back to you within one business day.

More information about their relief services and support for businesses can be found at workforce.org/covid-19-bus.