UPDATE (APRIL, 17) — It looks like the State of California Employment Development Department (EDD) has finally created a Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) website portal specific to gig workers / independent contractors!
If you’re a self-employed / independent contractor, you can apply for PUA on Tuesday, April 28. According to Julie A. Su, California Labor Secretary, “this new system will be able to pay individuals within 24 to 48 hours of their application.”
If you’re looking to file for unemployment, aka Covid-19 Stimulus Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, as a gig worker or independent contractor in the State of California, you have come to the right place. We recently created a guide for ‘Gig workers eligible for covid-19 unemployment benefits and rebate as part of $2 trillion Senate stimulus bill’ and now have gone through the actual process of applying for unemployment benefits as a gig worker.
Yes. You CAN apply for unemployment benefits as a gig worker / independent contractor. Is it easy? F*ck no. It’s pretty confusing and if you’re like me, I have no patience for work-arounds and any digital platform that is not user-friendly; but I got through it! Read on!
How To Apply For Covid-19 Unemployment as a Gig Worker in California
First off, make sure you have all your necessary items in front of you. This includes stuff like social security, driver’s license, etc. Be aware that the EDD unemployment portal times out every 30 minutes. So don’t multi-task during this time and be sure to pay attention. That last thing you want is to lose all your work. There is also a “save draft” option, however it can be shitty. I hit “save draft” once and lost a full page of data input.
1. Register for a new account here. If you have an existing State of California Employment Development Department (EDD), just login with your account info.
2. Once you register you will need to verify your email. So check your email asap.
3. Once verified, you will be prompted to return to the Benefit Programs Online and login with your new account. Once logged in you will see the screenshot below.
4. Select ‘UI Online‘
5. Select ‘File A New Claim‘. Please note, there are certain hours of the day where you can file for a new claim. For example, Tuesday – Friday 2 a.m. – 10 p.m.. See the screenshot below for hours.
6. You will then arrive at the ‘Unemployment Insurance Claim Filing Instructions‘. This will run you through a series of questions you need to answer.
When filing for your UI claim, you will be asked for your last employer.
If you own your business or are self-employed, you should list yourself as your last employer. If you are an independent contractor, you should list yourself as your last employer.
7. When you hit the ‘Last Employer Information‘ section, under question #3 be sure to select ‘Related to the coronavirus (COVID-19)’ as your separation explanation. See screenshot below.
8. When you arrive at the Disaster Information section, select “other” from the drop down menu and be sure to “Explain briefly how the disaster affected your ability to continue or begin your self-employment.”
From there on, you continue to answer the questions that are served to you.
It’s a shame that the State of California Employment Development Department has not set up a portal specific to unemployment for gig workers and independent contractors. The process can get pretty confusing since we are technically applying for unemployment under w2 standards. The questions definitely reflect that. Just be sure to answer them to your best judgement and remember to list yourself as the last employer.
You wait. Check your email for updates from the EDD and stay in tune with your phone! Turn that ringer on. The EDD might call you for an interview and or further detials.
Also, it doesn’t hurt to follow up, although you may go through severe wait times if you’re calling the EDD. Or you just might get lucky. I recently called and only waited about 1 minute.
Also: Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”)
If you’re an independent contractor, self-employed and / or small business, you can apply for Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”). These loans are forgivable loans to small businesses that pay their employees during the COVID-19 crisis. So if you’re continuing to pay your employees, you can received PPP.
When can I apply for PPP? Where can I apply for PPP?
For more information about Unemployment as a gig worker (aka Covid-19 Stimulus Pandemic Unemployment Assistance) in the State of California, visit the FAQs page.
You can also call the State of California Employment Development Department (EDD) at 916-654-6288. I called them on a Monday at 2:55pm and didn’t have to wait more than a minute to speak with a representative. From my experience, the best times to call busy places are usually 2:30pm-4:30pm.
On The Bright Side …
Gig workers / independent contractors in the State of California are pretty lucky right now to even have the option to apply for unemployment due to the coronavirus / covid-19 pandemic. Some other states, especially the Republican-controlled states, really have it bad. Some gig workers in the U.S. don’t even have the option to apply for unemployment just yet. As confusing as it is, California is at least making the option possible.