The government is providing monies to the legions of displaced workers to live on during the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Predictably the bureacracies responsible for dispensing these much needed dollars are not making it easy for the end users to receive the money.
It takes a lot patience and perserverance to navigate through the System.
Excerpted from San Francisco Chronicle 4.29.2020 – Kathleen Pender
It wasn’t easy, but self-employed people who had the patience and perseverance to deal with the California Employment Development Department’s overloaded website Tuesday were finally able to apply for federally funded unemployment benefits.
Asked about problems with the EDD website at his news conference Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said it’s “not surprising the first few hours we’ve got to figure this out.” Since March 15, EDD has sent out $5.3 billion in unemployment benefits, including $926 million on Sunday alone.
Late Monday, EDD tweeted that it “will be able to take applications for PUA benefits at 10 a.m. Tuesday.” The federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program provides up to 39 weeks of benefits to self-employed and other workers who don’t qualify for regular state benefits and lost work as a “direct result” of the coronavirus.
Many people who logged into the department’s UI Online site before 10 a.m. were able to apply.
Jennifer Bader started applying at 7:22 a.m.
“First it would take me in a circle,” she said. Bader could enter her email and check “I am not a robot,” but “when I would go to log in, it wouldn’t take me to the page where I would put in my password. Then all of a sudden that page came up.”
Completing the application “took about an hour. There were tears. This whole thing has been so frustrating,” she said.
Bader owns Bohemian Hair in Clovis, a Fresno suburb. In late February, she curled Jill Biden’s hair when the former second lady was in town ahead of Super Tuesday. About three weeks later, the salon closed amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Bader had previously applied for regular state unemployment benefits. EDD allowed and even encouraged this, presumably because workers who are employees under state law are eligible for regular state benefits, even if they’re being paid like independent contractors. Truly self-employed people, including business owners, cannot get state unemployment.
Like many self-employed workers who applied for regular state benefits, Bader got a notice saying her benefit amount was zero. So on Tuesday she wasn’t sure whether to reopen the old claim or start a new one and couldn’t find answers. Unable to open the old claim, she finally started a new one, but was confused by differences she noticed. The old application asked for her gross income, the new one asked for net income. “I was worried about screwing myself up,” she said.
Others who had previously applied for regular benefits — and got none — weren’t sure what to answer when the questionnaire asked whether they had previously applied for benefits.
Many people attempting to apply for the new pandemic benefits were stumped when they couldn’t find a Pandemic Unemployment Assistance application on EDD’s website. That’s because there isn’t one.
On Monday, the California Labor and Workforce Agency published on its website a list of frequently asked questions. No. 14 explained that “UI Online is the EDD’s application portal for both regular (unemployment insurance) and PUA claims.” All applicants start off with the same basic questions, and based on their responses, “the EDD will determine if your claim is processed as a regular UI claim or a PUA claim.”
That was not obvious on the EDD website most of Tuesday.
“It’s weird EDD buried the COVID-19 process (for pandemic benefits) within the application,” said Lee Heidhues, a self-employed paralegal in San Francisco.
Heidhues said he had to reload many pages and “a couple of times it kicked me out and I had to go back to the beginning. I was afraid I would have lost everything but I was able to log in and go back to where I was.” The process took 30 to 45 minutes, “which I guess isn’t too bad in the scheme of things,” he said.
Working in law, Heidhues said he is used to doing research and dealing with state agencies.
“Other people who aren’t used to this would probably give up,” he said.