COVID-19 stimulus package expands unemployment benefits

California Connection

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The record-setting COVID-19 stimulus package includes $260 billion in expanded unemployment benefits.

Many who normally would not be eligible can apply for relief.

Other parts of the stimulus have incentives for employers not to lay off their workers, but there are also strong protections for people who find themselves out of work or with less work.

“The spirit of the bill is to help people,” employment attorney Parveen Tumber said.

Tumber said she’s pleased with what she views as key protections for workers included in the stimulus expanded unemployment coverage.

The expanded benefits include an extra $600 per week, bringing California’s max weekly benefit to over $1,000.

Gig workers, freelancers, self-employed and part-time workers who historically cannot apply for unemployment are also eligible. If you previously used all your benefits, you can refile and the package extends benefits by 13 weeks for a maximum of 39 weeks.

Typically, people aren’t eligible for unemployment benefits if they voluntarily leave or if they quit their jobs, but the global pandemic has left some with little choice but to quit. Those under doctor-ordered quarantine, diagnosed with or caring for someone with COVID-19 and those who lost child care and had to leave work as a result can apply.

“It is quite a struggle and it’s a balance for a lot of workers in various industries. And if workers find it impossible or if employers let them go as a result of this, they would now be covered,” Tumber said.

However, if you quit your job simply because you’d rather stay home out of caution, that does not qualify.

Also not eligible for unemployment coverage are people able to work from home, workers receiving paid sick or family leave and people just entering the job market.

As for people with multiple streams of income who lose one or more of their jobs, Tumber said it’s worth applying for unemployment.

“I’d encourage you to apply. There’s so much gray area, we don’t really know,” Tumber said. “But I have to believe that there might be some sort of coverage, there might be something available to freelancers who are no longer able to perform their side hustle.”

For more information on unemployment benefits, click or tap here to visit the California Employment Development Department.

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