Some workers waiting on unemployment benefits months after first round of COVID-19 closures

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TUOLUMNE COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) — For people across the country, rollbacks in reopening mean they’ll be out of a job even longer.

For those who recently returned to work, it will be another round of unemployment claims.

Over the last four months, the Employment Development Department has been overwhelmed, leaving many to wait weeks and even months for their benefits.

“It’s just frustrating because I don’t know if I’m doing it right,” said Connie Garcia, who runs a child care service in Tuolumne County.

But when the coronavirus pandemic hit, most of the children she looked after stopped coming by.

“It was like, boom, I lost a lot of kids March 20th … 15th, 20th, somewhere around there,” Garcia told FOX40.

So, she applied for unemployment. But aside from a generic confirmation letter and one phone call, Garcia and her husband have not received a dime or answers, even after the Employment Development Department increased its staffing to handle questions.

One question that may help explain why Garcia has not received any money is does she qualify?

Loree Levy, a spokesperson for the EDD, said, traditionally, self-employed California residents are not eligible. But Levy added that circumstances these days are different.

“However, the federal government did build a whole new program under the federal CARES Act called the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program,” Levy explained. “Every state has had to build that brand new program specifically for the self-employed and business owners and those who do not qualify.”

The Garcias said if that’s the case, then just let them know because trying to get that answer has been very tiring.

“It’s been like seven weeks since, so it’s like what do you do?” said Garcia’s husband, Bill.

Levy said her office hopes to be able to answer more questions with more staff but, at the moment, she asks people to “hang tight with us.”

“We’re getting back to those individuals who may have some more complex cases that are going to need some more additional effort to resolve,” she said.

The EDD said since the pandemic began, it has processed more than 7 million claims for unemployment, totaling more than $41 billion.

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