SACRAMENTO, Calif. — As California gets ready to pay out an extra $300 per week in unemployment benefits, there are thousands of people who won’t get the extra money.
California's Employment Development Depart (EDD) announced it plans to start processing Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) payments beginning the week of Monday, Sept. 7. That program is part of an executive order signed by President Trump in August.
The EDD lists two specific requirements for people to receive the LWA payments:
- currently eligible to receive at least $100 per week in benefits, and
- who have provided a self-certification that they are unemployed or partially unemployed due to disruptions caused by COVID-19.
The $100 benefit minimum means thousands of people in California, including some of the lowest-income earners, along with some mixed-income workers (those who earn a combination of traditional and self-employment income), will not receive the additional $300 per week.
A recent analysis from California Policy Lab estimates 192,000 people receiving unemployment benefits in California will not qualify for the $300 boost. The $100 minimum eligibility requirement is part of the President’s executive order and California must distribute the funds according to FEMA rules.
The EDD calculates how much a person receives in unemployment insurance benefits based on the base period of their claim. According to an EDD table, a person would need to have earned at least $2,574.01 in a qualifying quarter to receive at least $100 in unemployment benefits from the state.
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Corrie Tutt is one of the people who does not qualify for the LWA program. She earns most of her income self-employed as a real estate agent, but last year, she also helped a friend, as a side job, at a health and fitness spa. Tutt says she made about $3,000 over the year, supplementing her real estate earnings.
When she applied for unemployment benefits with EDD, she was surprised that they would only consider her W-2 earnings, not what she reported on her 1099 as earnings in her primary job. This means she qualified for less than $100 per week in unemployment insurance, instead of a higher amount she could have received in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or PUA benefits.
"Even though I have written EDD and I filed my taxes and everything, they're just going off the small amount of money that I made there," Tutt said.
On its website, EDD states if it receives “wages reported from an employer over the last 18 months that would qualify you for a regular UI claim, then the EDD is required by law to proceed with a regular UI claim for you.”
In another post, EDD states, “the federal CARES Act, which created the PUA program, requires that an individual may only receive PUA benefits if they are not eligible for regular or extended UI benefits or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) benefits.”
This means that for mixed-income workers like Tutt, not only is her unemployment benefit much less than what she feels she should get, but she isn’t eligible for the $300 unemployment boost either.
"I'm not trying to live off the system,” Tutt said. “Some people may. We're just trying to survive."
California Rep. Adam Schiff has introduced the ‘Mixed Earner Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act of 2020,’ which could help mixed-income workers. The bill would let people who received at least $7,250 from self-employment opt into the PUA program.