UI Benefits Now Available to Independent Contractors, Self-Employed, Others

Date: April 29, 2020

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program open and accepting applications

Help has finally arrived for those not in a traditional employer-employee relationship.

“As part of the federal CARES Act, the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program helps unemployed Californians who are business owners, self-employed, independent contractors, have limited work history, and others not usually eligible for regular state UI benefits who are out of business or services are significantly reduced as a direct result of the pandemic,” announced the state’s Employment Development Department April 28.

According to the EDD’s webpage, “The provisions of the program include:

  • Up to 39 weeks of benefits starting with weeks of unemployment beginning February 2, 2020, through the week ending December 26, 2020, depending on when you became directly impacted by the pandemic.
  • A new 13-week federal extension for those who run out of their regular state-provided UI benefits (maximum 26 weeks). File a PUA claim and you may be converted to the federal extension once it is available.”


EDD warns that “If you qualify for a regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) claim, you should not file a PUA claim at this time. If you filed for UI and received an award notice indicating $0 in benefits available, visit PUA FAQs for what to do next.”


The PUA program is off to a rocky start. According to a Capradio news story, “While many had been waiting for April 28 to finally apply, the anticipated surge of applicants left some complaining about long wait times on social media. ‘Unfortunately, it’s not going great,’ Jennifer Shaw, a Sacramento-based employment law attorney said of the launch, noting that some of her clients also reported website crashes. ‘It’s not the fault of EDD. A lot of them are working from home. There are a lot of limitations. … The system is being taxed.’ 

“Shaw said the PUA is the first unemployment program designed for non-traditional workers in California’s history. Typically, this part of the workforce doesn’t receive any jobless benefits. No government agencies, she added, were prepared or could have been prepared for the overwhelming and immediate economic fallout from the coronavirus.”




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